This blog offers me an opportunity to opine on a variety of subject matters. Politics and geopolitical issues affect all of us and I would like to express my thoughts on the issue of democracy.
Of course it is the finest form of government. Yet should it always be embraced in its immediacy, its totality, under every geopolitical situation?
Our country’s history is a unique testimony to how it can work and work well (despite the obvious difficulties). Yet we often fail to understand the historical and cultural background from which our “Founding Fathers” arose. Without such an understanding, we are doomed to be shocked and surprised when democracy doesn’t seem to “work” so well in other countries and other cultures.
The debacle presently going on in Egypt speaks to that point. a recent article in the NYTimes by Charles A. Kupchan (Democracy in Egypt Can Wait) addresses these issues quite well.
You see our Founding Fathers were products of an English history and education which was steeped in European Enlightenment philosophy and understanding. A 25OO year history of justice, moral and ethical principles and severe problems with religion, monarchy, injustice and war helped mold the philosophical underpinnings of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There is no lack of literature on this topic. Suffice it to say, the the creation and formation of the USA was a perfect storm of brillance, understanding, enlightenment and a celebration of the rights and liberties of individual human beings and their freedom to live life unencombered by state or religion.
The same can not be said for the Middle East. It’s history is rife with religious fundamentalism, xenophobia regarding outsiders, intolerance of differences, brutal dictatorships and monarchies and no tradition of justice, a legal system which protects the rights of the individual or minorities. In other words–it should not come as a surprise to anyone with half-a brain that democracy cannot succeed in the Muslim world as it presently exists.
Adolph Hitler was brought to office by democratic principles in a European nation with strong intellectual and philosophical credentials. Yet he quickly dismanteled the forces for protecting individual liberties. Democracy became the gateway to its own destruction, the slaughter of millions and the ultimate annihilation of Germany itself.
So this issue is not just about particular religious or cultural differences. When demoagogues, dictators and a failed justice system clash, democratic elections can bring horrific outcomes as well.
So, as Kupchan points out, democracy needs to be embraced under a gradual process which emphasizes the protection and rights of the individual. It will be difficult to be sure. But wholesale welcoming of democracy at any price will lead to further chaos and destruction. Just check in with your daily source of news information to find unfortunate evidence of this truth.