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Critical voices ignored in the radar decision

16.7.2008 - The Prague Post

In the glare of the spotlights surrounding a celebrity visit, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. So a bit of context for this week’s signing of the radar treaty: Though significant, the treaty is just one more step on a long journey, with parliamentary and congressional approval still needed on both sides of the Atlantic, and full funding not guaranteed. There’s also the nagging question of where the other half of the system, the interceptor missiles, will be located, with Poland trying to extract major concessions from the United States in return for that dubious privilege.

Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if the United States and Poland made a surprise announcement that a deal had been struck, as that’s how the process has gone so far — high-level talks conducted out of public scrutiny, with political favors and prestige seemingly more important than the support of the citizenry.

One can make the argument that this is a geopolitical matter, rightly left to the countries’ leadership, and not the province of common citizens. That’s not the position of this page; we believe that people who risk becoming targets because their country is taking on a provocative military installation should have a say in the decision. But, even if that were not the case, we have to ask: Is anyone at the top paying attention?

Every version of a European Union constitution that gets submitted for voter approval is rejected, primarily because it’s a top-down process, with political leaders trying to impose a layer of bureaucracy that they have not explained to voters — and, when pressed, often cannot explain. The Bush administration stampeded the United States into a war with Iraq with no attempt to build public support for a long and draining occupation. When things went bad, popular opinion turned against the war and, indeed, Bush himself.

The lesson: Powerful and arrogant leaders can get almost anything they want in the short term. But ultimately every government needs the support of the voters, especially for critical and possibly world-altering decisions. To ignore that is to invite dissent, disillusionment and disaster down the road.

We have said it before, but in light of this week’s events it bears repeating: If Czech citizens want the radar base in their country, that’s their decision. But it should be their decision, not an edict imposed by fiat.

Source (Czech): Critical voices ignored in the radar decision. The Prague Post 09.07.2008

The Prague Post is the Czech Republic's most popular and widely circulated English-language weekly newspaper created in 1991. Its print edition reaches some 40,000 readers.

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