Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Kurds Betrayed: Iraq Retakes Kirkuk with U.S. Backing


For some reason, people tend to assume that the status quo has been around for a very, very long time—that it enjoys the perk of longevity. To mess with it even in part is typically assumed to “upset the apple cart.” The fear is excessive. A century after World War I, the fact that many of the extant countries in the Middle East had been artificially crafted by Britain and France paled under the presumption that those countries had been around for much, much longer. Accordingly, the fact that the Kurds voted overwhelmingly in 2017 to secede from Iraq was ignored or dismissed not only by Iraq, but also by other countries in the region and the United States. “Baghdad and most countries in the region had condemned the vote, fearing it would fuel ethnic divisions, lead to the breakup of Iraq and hobble the fight against the Islamic State.”[1] I submit that the fear was overblown and mistaken.
Firstly, ethnic divisions had been crippling Iraq since the United States toppled Saddam Hussain. An independent Kurdistan in the northern third of Iraq would have relieved the pressure such that the Iraqi government would only have to deal with the Sunni-Shiite struggle for power.
Secondly, even if Iraq itself would break-up completely, even this outcome would not be so much to fear, as Iraq itself had been artificially formed by the British after World War I. Put another way, the salience of the ethnic divisions in Iraq can be taken as an indication of the sheer artificiality of the state itself. The very notion of a nation goes along with ethnic clusters rather than forcing such clusters to form one political culture (to say nothing of getting along).
Thirdly, the pesh merga forces of the Kurds had fought quite well against the Islamic State, so invigorating the Kurds by supporting the formation of their own state would have been in the interests of the United States. Betraying the Kurds by enabling the Iraqi forces to take Kirkuk and its valuable oil region could be expected to have the opposite effect. In ignoring the clear will of the Kurds as per the decisive result of the referendum for secession, the United States betrayed itself, moreover, given that country’s preachments on behalf of democracy, which entails the self-determination of We the People.
A century after World War I, the world had an opportunity to remember that victorious European powers redrew the political map in the Middle East without taking into account the ethnic clusters that are naturally so integral to having nation-states. That such states enjoy a monopoly of power in international relations—the international realm literally being inter-national—suggests that the crafting of coherent rather than artificial nations is very important. Hence, a century out from WWI, the world of nations need not simply assume that even the break-up of a Middle Eastern country would somehow be the collapse of something that has always been around and would therefore be catastrophic. Put another way, a country formed by a European power should not enjoy default status because the formation itself can be viewed as problematic, evidenced by the ensuing ethnic strife. Admittedly, this does not hold in every country formed by Britain or France (e.g. Jordan), but where a country is strife-ridden, the application of nation itself is problematic; ethnic pushes for independence should not have to face the inertia of the status quo in such a case.



[1] David Zucchino, “Iraqis Capture Key Kurdish City with Little Fight,” The New York Times, October 17, 2017.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Climatic Presumption: What is the Forecast?

Al Gore stated that we face a choice regarding whether the earth’s ecological system will remain viable for our species.  He cites the carbon that is frozen in the permafrost in the north.  As the permafrost melts, carbon is added to the atmosphere, making it “difficult” for the human species to live.   I am not a scientist so I have no means of knowing what the state of the research is on these matters.  Nor am I particularly interested in debating it.   In my view, if there is a chance that we could be effectively ending our our species, we ought not to be held back from acting in a prudent fashion even if it is “just in case.”   I understand the economic costs, and that some are particularly attached to short-run costs (and less enamoured with long-term benefits).  Still, that the debate itself would be allowed to stall even a “just in case” response reflects badly on our species.   At a worse case, it could be something like two parents debating which of them will get their baby out of their burning house.  Meanwhile, the baby burns.   We would call that a dysfunctional family, would we not?  Still, no such appellation goes to those involved in the continuing debate on climate change.
It strikes me that we as a society may be too innured in our own presumptuousness to even realize how badly we are handling such decisions.  I can’t believe that the society is predominantly made up of the two, rather vocal, extremes on the matter.  The extremes are presumptuous in their determination to continue the debate unless they get exactly what they want while the rest of us have been guilty of allowing them to dominate the decision-making process.  Consider, for example, a reasonable person saying, “ok, we need to make a decision,” and one is made.  The refusal to make compromises (whether an extreme in the US following a rigid ideological agenda or the Chinese government presuming that national sovereignty is absolute) is not only childish, it is rather arrogant concerning that the eventual demise of our species might hang in the balance.  Even this “might” should be a wakeup call that posturing and debating evince a selfishness that the rest of us ought not to countenance.  Yet we do.  We are too passive, those of us without a dog in the fight.   The truth is, we all have a dog in this fight.  Are we to be survived by cockroaches?   Wouldn’t it be fodder for a divine comedy were the antics of the cockroaches superior to the presumptuousness of humans?   The species left standing is the one that wins.  

I can visualize a later generation (of humans) looking back at our generation as incredibly selfish and incompetent even to reach a decision.  “They knew what might hang in the balance, and yet they were so caught up in their own petty circumstances.”   It is like we are captains on the Titanic debating which way to turn after it being reasonable to believe that there is an iceberg somewhere ahead.   It could even be that we see the iceberg and still we debate.  Such pettifoggery is mere dribble in the divine comedy that may well already be in Act III.  

We are so small, even smaller than the cockroach, and yet we presume ourselves to be so big.  We we to have the distance of perspective such that our immediate pathos would not blind us, how would we view our society…ourselves?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autocratic Regimes: Subject to the Domino Effect?

"In Beirut, gunfire broke out and crowds of people waved Egyptian flags. In Yemen, they gathered in front of the Egyptian Embassy chanting, 'Wake up rulers, Mubarak fell today.' In Gaza, they fired shots in the air and set off fireworks. . . . [However,] in a telling sign of the divide between the rulers and the ruled, the region’s leaders, presidents and monarchs remained largely silent." This depiction by The New York Times of ripple effects across the Middle East in the wake of the resignation of Egypt's Mubarak in February, 2011 intimated the hoped-for and feared possibility that the popular unrest could spread.  Moreover, the entire world, which had been been glued to the events unfolding in Cairo, wondered if a domino effect might be in store in countries under autocratic rule. Indeed, The New York Times wrote of a possible domino effect quite explicitly: "The popular uprising that started . . . in Tunisa had claimed its second autocratic government, this time in the largest country in the Arab world. With more protests planned in coming days, some governments were clearly worried they could be next." But do autocratic governments fall like dominos?  That is, is revolution contagious? Fawaz Traboulsi, a prominent Lebanese writer and columnist, thought so in the days following Mubarak's resignation. “All the regimes are shaking now . . . They are becoming more and more fragile. This is just the beginning.” In Bahrain, King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa apparently thought so too, for he ordered the equivalent of $2,650 be given to every Bahraini family a few days before a planned "Day of Rage" protest. “Arab people discovered their ability to make change,” said Nabeel Rajab, a human rights activist in Bahrain. “And with Egypt in the leadership once again, the change will reach all the Arab world.” In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he would suspend constitutional amendments that allow him to remain in his office for life. He also raised salaries for the military and civil servants and cut income taxes in half. In Algeria, the government promised to lift the state of emergency that had been in effect since 1992. To be sure, nineteen years is a rather long time for an emergency.  Such efforts can be likened to building up wetlands or widening a beach to take the wind out of the hurricane out at sea should it hit. In other words, it appears that there was "revolution watch" in effect for the Middle East in the wake of the fall of the Egyptian regime. One might reasonably question, however, whether revolutions are contagious.

It could be that autocracy itself had been weakened by the success of the protests in Egypt.  On the other hand, there had been revolutions before and dictatorship was not evicerated from the face of the earth. The belief that the Tunesian and Egyptian revolutions were the start of a wave that would flood all autocratic powers in the Middle East (or the world) might also consider that even autocratic states differ in their respective internal conditions. To use the hurricane analogy, some beaches are better protected than others. If the unrest in Tunesia and Egypt were linked in such a way that other countries could be impacted internally, the ensuing domino effect could perhaps be compared to that among Wall Street banks in September 2008.  The collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch as independent or viable going concerns contained a momentum that was beginning to bring down Morgan Stanley and threaten even Goldman Sachs when the ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs at Treasury effectively pushed for the construction of a fortified sand-dune (TARP) a.k.a. an infusion of funds into the remaining banks from the U.S. Government and the Federal Reserve.  As a result, the force of the strengthening winds ceased to intensify and began to diminish, leaving the economy in a long rainy season (i.e., a recession and a subsequent nearly jobless recovery).

In the wake of the fall of the Egyptian regime, were the other regimes in the Middle East like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs after Lehman Brothers declared bankrupcy?  In other words, are autocratic regimes subject to a "run on the bank" in another? If so, there would still be a notable difference between the big banks and the governments.  Namely, the banks were deemed too big to fail, while the autocratic rulers were deemed too powerful to rule. That is to say, the continued viability of the Wall Street pillars was deemed essential to the world economy, while it was thought in the wake of the Egyptian regime of Mubarak that the world was better off less one autocratic regime. Hence there would not be likely to be a TARP program arranged to prop up dictators. Even with this difference noted, I contend that both big banks and big dictators are too big to exist in a world that values freedom and individual rights. Perhaps we ought to have been cheering the domino effect on Wall Street just as we cheered the fall of the Tunesian and Egyptian dictators. In both cases, destabilization that could lead to the collapse of the global economy and civic order would of course need to be avoided.  However, I contend that the U.S. Government could have intervened to maintain order on Wall Street by assisting as the big banks split into pieces, none of which being too big to fail and thus more in the public interest than retaining the big banks as such.  In the case of public autocratic regimes, their demise and replacement can typically be handled domestically, as in the cases of Tunesia and Egypt, rather than by an international organization such as the U.N.

In general terms, the "run on the bank" in Tunesia and Egypt may or may not be contagious in its nature, yet a consideration of the possibility of a domino effect can remind us of the domino effect that we witnessed in September of 2008 on Wall Street. Making this connection might prompt us to ask whether autocratic governments and big banks aren't both too big to exist. In other words, the collapse of one badly run bank after another and the subsequent need to deal with the question of such banks as going concerns can perhaps be likened to the collapse of one badly run government after another.  Was the world finally noticing around the end of the first decade (and the beginning of the second) of the twenty-first century that enormous concentrations of private capital (and thus power) and of public autocratic authority were not necessarily givens, and thus could, and perhaps should, be taken down? In other words, were long-standing givens finally seen as replacable?  The world was stunned when huge investment banks that had been around for more than a century were suddenly collapsing, just as the world was stunned when the government of the largest Middle Eastern country suddenly fell after two weeks of popular protests. Pillars, even those that are thought vital, can indeed fall, and the world can discover through the experiences that they are not essential--and they might even be bad for the public good. Surely this is the sense of the free world concerning autocratic governments, yet we are less convinced concerning the danger in continuing to allow banks too big to fail to continue to exist as they have for decades. In both cases, the domino effect may be natural and good, provided it is managed so public order does not collapse in the process. 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The International System: Undermining a Ban on Nuclear Weapons

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for the group’s work on behalf of a global ban on nuclear weapons. Just a few months earlier, two-thirds of the U.N.’s General Assembly approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “The risk of nuclear war has grown exceptionally in the last few years, and that’s why it makes this treaty and us receiving this award so important,” Beatrice Fihn of the group said.[1] Unfortunately, the stance to ban rather than merely limit nuclear weapons was already being marginalized as utopian and even potentially counter-productive even though ongoing efforts to limit the proliferation were falling short. I submit that the international system itself had become problematic, given the relatively new global threat of nuclear war.  
Even amid “rising global alarm about a potential nuclear conflagration” between the United States and North Korea, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that “we have to be realistic” about the spread of nuclear weapons—meaning that a total ban could actually increase the risk of nuclear war.[2] Yet with Pakistan having an estimated 140 nuclear warheads and India having 130, Israel having an estimated 80, and North Korea presumably working on developing warheads, the status-quo policy of the U.S. could be said to be insufficient to stave off the risk of nuclear war. Put another way, as proliferation was already underway, non-proliferation policies could be reckoned as faulty.
Why do human beings continue to hold onto a boat that is sinking while seeking to undercut an alternative that actually could work? The tyranny of even a deficient status quo is such that the answer may lie with human nature itself. The risk of nuclear war has such a gigantic downside (i.e., nuclear war) that drastic measures to eradicate the risk may be necessary, and yet none of the nuclear powers in the U.N. would be bound by the treaty. Why even ratify it then? The exercise could be said to evince the impotence of the world body even in the face of such a horrible risk. Given the propensity of human nature to ingratiate itself and the existence of grave global risks, the very survival of the species may have already come to depend on a reform of the nation-state system wherein nations hold a monopoly on governmental sovereignty such that some of it is moved to the global level. National governments face a conflict of interest in this regard, as they would be ceding some power. Even if the survival of the species depends on advancement from the nation-state hegemony, national governmental officials may demur out of sordid self-interest.




1. Michael Birnhaum of the Washington Post, October 6, 2017.
2. Ibid.

For more on conflicts of interest that governments (and businesses) face, see Institutional Conflicts of Interest. 

Knee-Jerk Reactions: On the U.S. Government Enabling Dictators

While in the U.S. Senate, Paul Kirk, the interim U.S. Senator who took Ted Kennedy’s seat, said, “Without a legitimate and credible Afghan partner, that counterinsurgency strategy is fundamentally flawed. The current Afghan government is neither legitimate nor credible. . . . We should not send a single additional dollar in aid or add a single American serviceman or woman to the 68,000 already courageously deployed in Afghanistan until we see a meaningful move by the Karzai regime to root out its corruption.” 

Kirk was essentially arguing that the U.S. was enabling (i.e., in the sense that one enables an alcoholic) President Karzai, who had been reelected by widespread fraud. Whether the U.S. Government was trying to have it both ways, or was utterly unwilling to put its money where American principles are, the perception around the world was probably that the United States had sold itself out for short-term strategic/military advantage. 

How resilient are principles that are upheld only when they don't cost anything?  Could it be that standing more on principle--insisting on fair and free elections as a precondition for any American aid and military involvement--would mitigate the need for a surge? Such thinking runs against the grain in the modern world, which is actually rather primitive in its insistance on knee-jerk force.  An eye for an eye and the world will be blind (Gandhi).  September 11, 2001: we must hit back.  There is no other option. They must pay. Ironically, practicing Christians were not only cheering, but also leading the charge.  An eye for an eye.

“Be realistic!” you might say.  "It's a real world out there!" Ok, how about this: the U.S. Government could have concentrated its military force in Afghanistan on the actual culprits, rather than on rebuilding the country or taking on the Taliban.  Is it really so idealistic to cut off U.S. aid to autocratic governments? I suspect that we are limited by the status quo as a normative and descriptive limitation that is actually quite dogmatic in the sense of being arbitrary.  In other words, we believe our self-constructed walls are real; we don't see how rigid we have become.

Given the emphasis on force, does it make all that much difference who is occupying the U.S. Presidency? President Bush invaded Iraq. President Obama criticized this policy then led a surge of his own in Afghanistan.  Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, and both Bush II and Obama played ball with these pay-masters.  Meanwhile, we were mollified with the government's “scoldings” of Wall Street banks (the strongest of which went back to their old ways anyway).  Can we blame the bankers for ignoring government officials whose principled leadership is so contingent? People, especially powerful people--like Wall Street bankers and Karzai--can sniff hypocrisy and automatically reduce the respect given.

The United States is like a giant machine, or a very fat person, who can only move slowly…turning woefully slow with a rudder that is too small.    Meanwhile, we vaunt our ship as the biggest ever made: A city on the hill, from Puritan lore. We can’t sink, we assure each other.  But our ship of state is made of iron. I assure you, it can sink, and all the more because we have drifted out into deep water without realizing how far we have gone…how far off course.  Our rudder is too small for our mechanized monstrosity--our Titanic laden with $14 tillion in federal debt alone (not counting those of the states). Our primative knee-jerk reactiong after 911 suggests that everything we know is wrong, even as we presume we can’t be wrong.   So as we rearrange the deck-chairs at our mascurade dance, we order more champaigne and congraduate each other on having the biggest ship.  Meanwhile, is anyone looking ahead for icebergs?  We are so sure of our ship, and thus so vulnerable.

Source:

Brianna Keilar, "Obama Ally Breaks with Him on Afghanistan," CNN, December 2, 2009.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

On the Obama Administration's Inconsistency on Syria and Libya

In his foreign policy speech on May 19, 2011, U.S. President Barak Obama attempted to justify his administration’s policy of selective military action against violent rulers. “(W)e cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.” The Obama administration was assuming that facilitating the removal of a ruler who is violently betraying his people must involve a multi-year American occupation, as in Iraq. However, the case of the U.N.-sanctioned international coalition enforcing a no-fly-zon and protecting civilians in Libya proffers a counter-example.

Obama stated, “(W)e saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people's call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes.” The problem is that by the time the U.S. President uttered these words, Assad had killed perhaps up to a thousand unarmed protesters in Syria. In June 2011, after Assad's troops had killed an estimated 1,100 civilians, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton could only muster a warning. "The legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out." How many civilians did Qadhafi's troops kill before his right to rule was expunged by the U.S. Government? The irony is that whereas in Libya the protesters had relatively quickly become armed rebels, the Syrian protests remained largely in the protest mode. Ethically, it is worse to kill unarmed protesters than armed rebels. 

Even though Obama admits that “the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens,” he claims it is sufficient for the U.S. to have “condemned these actions, [while] working with the international community [to step] up our sanctions on the Syrian regime - including sanctions . . . on President Assad and those around him.” Sarcastically, I am tempted to ask whether sanctions is sufficient, given what Qaddafi had done to provoke a no-fly-zone and bombing to protect civilians amid an armed civil war.

In addition to the red herring that any U.S. involvement must somehow match the Iraq case, it is misleading to suggest that the U.S. “can’t” stop every ruler who turns on his people as if other empires or independent states could not also take the lead. To be sure, the American military has its areas of expertise, but this does not mean that the U.S. should or must take the predominant role globally. Working with other empire-scale countries as well as independent states, the U.S. Government could provide moral leadership as the world takes a firmer stand than mere sanctions when a ruler is killing hundreds of protesters. At the very least, the credibility of the U.S. Government would be much enhanced were it more consistent in regard to similar cases. Inconsistency can provoke possible explanations hinging on partiality and self-interest.

For example, some foreign policy experts say the White House has not called for the world to unite in a military action against Assad not because he has been any less violent than Qaddafi, but because Syria is “critical to Obama’s attempt to end Iran’s nuclear program and to promote Arab-Israeli peace,” according the USA Today. If this explanation is correct, then the U.S. Government has put manipulation above Obama’s own pledge to stand up for democracy over tyrants.

Still others argue that Assad has the support of other Middle East regimes and that the elite in Syria is not fractured—making the case different from that in Libya. However, this is not an argument that Assad’s betrayal has been any less than Qaddafi’s; rather, the argument is that more obstacles exist to stopping Assad than Qaddafi.  However, standing up for human rights is not for the timid. In other words, it is not necessarily quick and easy. It does not say much about a leader’s character if a little difficulty is enough to resort to sanctions. In the case of Syria, that the E.U. had already joined the U.S. in leveling sanctions against the Syrian officials suggests that an international coalition could be strong enough to give the Syrian protesters a viable chance to topple the regime, even given the size of Assad's military.

In Libya, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil suggested that it is in the interests of the U.S. and E.U. to support such causes. "The United States and the European Union should know that we are a righteous people," he said. "We are fighting for a better future and they will not regret helping us." Perhaps the question of consistency comes down to how important human rights are to the American and European officials who have competing goals.


Sources:

Transcript: Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech, May 19, 2011.

Oren Dorell, “Syria, Libya Merit Different U.S. Policies,” USA Today, May 16, 2011, p. 5A.

Michelle Faul, "EU Opens Diplomatic Office in Libya's Rebel East," MSNBC.com, May 22, 2011.

Jay Solomon, "Syrian Violence Tests U.S.," The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2011

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Did Obama Press Israel to Compromise for Peace?

Seeing to “capture a moment of epochal change in the Arab world,” U.S. President Obama delivered a foreign policy speech on May 19, 2011 in which, according to the New York Times, he sought “to break the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by “setting out a new starting point for negotiations.” In particular, he suggested that the Israelis go back to the 1967 borders, adjusted somewhat to account for settlements on the West Bank. Meeting with Obama on the following day, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We can’t go back” to the 1967 borders, according to MSNBC.com. This put the U.S. at odds with one of its foremost allies. Considering the amount of financial and military aid involved, Netanyahu could have been accused of biting the hand that was feeding Israel. Yet due to lobbying no doubt, the Obama administration did not fully play its hand in pressuring the ally.

Before the president’s speech, according to the New York Times, Netanyahu “held an angry phone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton” to demand that the president’s references to 1967 borders be cut. White House officials said that nothing was changed from Israeli pressure. In spite of the billions in aid to Israel from the U.S., the Israeli government had ignored the president’s request that settlements be halted—only to reject the 1967 borders proposal.  Given the position of Israel in the Middle East and its financial support from the U.S., the Israeli government’s rejection of the American proposals is perplexing. In fact, the refusals, as well as the pressure, could be taken as presumptuous, given Israel’s intransience in negotiating with the Palestinians.

So why, one might ask, didn’t the American president freeze aid to Israel? Although Jews in the U.S. are only about 2% of the total population, as donors to political candidates and the Democratic Party, the Jewish influence is disproportionate. Congress would hardly support real pressure on Israel, so realistically the president’s hand was probably tied.

In fact, I would not be surprised if Netanyahu had threatened Obama that if he kept the 1967 border proposal in his speech, he would lose Florida in 2012. It would be unfortunate if Americans who happen to be Jewish would put another country before their own in voting for president. In fact, I submit that it is in the Jewish interest, whether in Florida or Israel, that additional pressure be applied to Israel so a comprehensive peace deal may be achieved. Indeed, the reaction to the speech in the E.U. was that finally the U.S. Government was standing up to Israel.  A spokesperson for E.U. foreign policy minister Catherine Ashton said she "warmly welcomes President Obama's confirmation that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with the mutually agreed swaps, with secured and recognized borders on both sides," according to Zawya.com. Perhaps the E.U. and U.S. could combine forces to pressure Israel to comrpromise.

However, was making a proposal not to Israel’s liking standing up to the Israelis? I contend that the most intractable problem in the Middle East requires more than words. Accordingly, President Obama should find the will to put money behind his words. Specifically, he should give the Israeli government a deadline for a peace deal, after which American aid would be frozen. If Congress’s approval is necessary, the president should make the recommendation, agreeing to take the heat. 

Coming off his victory over Osama Bin Laden, Obama has some political capital to burn, and he should not be afraid of retaliation from Americans who happen to be Jewish—whom I would think would be against occupation wherever it is going on, given the history of Jewish suffering under occupation. Surely Jewish Americans realize that two wrongs do not make a right, and, moreover, that Israel’s future will not be secured until it compromises with those whom it is occupying. Borne of occupied resistance, the United States itself ought to be for the occupied rather than the occupiers, and Jewish Americans are part of the United States, are they not?

In any case, the way to win a presidential election is to keep one’s eyes on the prize rather than deferring in order not to offend particular interest groups. Paradoxically, if winning re-election is the predominant factor in every major presidential decision, the likelihood of a win is diminished accordingly because there are inevitably costs borne more by some than others as a leader puts his money where his mouth is in order to achieve any truly worthwhile accomplishment. Relatedly, a benefit of a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy is that in the former representatives have a period of time insulating them from the immediate passions of the people so they can go out on a limb to bring home the bacon that might involve a bit of discomfort.

Sources:

Mark Lander and Steven Lee Myers, “Obama sees ’67 Borders as Starting Point for Peace Deal,” The New York Times, May 20, 2011.