Saturday, August 23, 2008

Can Liberal Democracy succeed everywhere?

I am reading some pretty poor arguments – disjointed assertions to be more accurate. Here let me help you: Bush has wasting his time in the Middle East attempting to spread Liberal-Democracy because some people just aren’t cut out for it. You, Lawrence, trace Liberal-Democracy back to its Protestant Christian roots; well the Middle East has no such roots. Their tradition is derived from the war-like Koran. They are used to autocratic leaders and don’t want Liberal-Democracy. We don’t know what Iraq’s government will look like after we finally leave -- but we can be sure it won’t be a Liberal-Democracy.

Now that is a plausible argument. It was used about Germany and Japan by the way, but someone could then argue, “so what if we thought Liberal-democracy wouldn’t take hold in Italy, German, Japan, Spain, Latin America, Russia and many other places that didn’t have Protestant Christian roots. So what? Those nations aren’t Arab nations. There are 22 Arab nations and not one of them is a Liberal Democracy.”

Well, we’d need to clean that argument up a bit. Most of those nations had Christian roots. Italy, Spain and Latin America had Catholic Roots. Germany had protestant and Catholic roots. They weren’t that far from Protestantism. They at least knew what it was and could accept a secular version, i.e., Liberal-Democracy. Russia is Eastern Orthodox and it doesn’t look as though Liberal-Democracy is catching on there; which would support Huntington’s thesis about the “Orthodox Civilization.” Japan had a history that after their complete defeat made them amenable to the form of government of their victors – especially since many Japanese traditions coincided with American traditions.

But what about the Islamic tradition? Is there any bridge in it that would make the trip to Liberal Democracy likely. That is really a difficult to imagine. We can read Natan Sharansky and believe that all men want to be free, and would therefore delight in a Liberal Democracy, but the Islamic people we witness today seem to be comfortable with paternalistic autocracies. Their religion inclines them to accept religious autocracies, and perhaps any sort of autocracy is going to seem preferable to a Liberal Democrcy where all sorts of anti-religious activities are permitted..

I can attempt inductive logic and say that we thought democracy wouldn’t succeed in nation one and it did, . . . nation 2 and it did . . . nation 3 and it did, etc. Therefore nations 43 and subsequent, even though they are Islamic, can probably be converted to Liberal Democracy as well. But inductive logic isn’t absolute. I would say this, two Arab nations have been given a chance to be free and they have eagerly grasped it. They risk their lives daily to preserve that chance. They risk their lives to vote. Arabs take jobs as leaders, policemen and soldiers even though they know that Islamists are likely to target them. It is too soon to say that Iraq and Afghanistan will chose a form of government that will not permit extensive freedoms.

The naysayer could then say, “okay, fair enough, but look what they are coming up with. That doesn’t look like any Liberal Democracy I’ve ever seen.” I would then remind them that twelve years after the French Revolution they had a dictatorship and 60 years after the American Revolution they still had slavery. Just because you don’t get it right overnight doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually have a Liberal Democracy. It doesn’t mean Francis Fukuyama won’t eventually be proved right.

In the meantime we watch the Russian wolf huffing and puffing and threatening to blow down the house of any little piggies who want to join NATO, making it look as though Huntington, rather than Fukuyama, will be proved right.

Lawrence Helm

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