2006/08/16

We get a challenge

Andrew Sullivan throws the glove down:

But, for all Cheney's and Rumsfeld's flaws, they are at least proposing something serious, however ineptly carried out. I have yet to hear anti-war voices on the left propose a positive strategy for defeating Islamist terror at its roots, or call for democratization of the Arab Muslim world.

There's a very good reason for the lack of a call to democratize the Arab Muslim world. Democracy, by its very nature, cannot be forced on anyone. For a nation to be non-democratic is not necessarily a terrible thing. Being a centralized, monarchical nation, with rulers who do not answer to citizens, is not necessarily a "Hell on Earth." For many centuries, during Europe's Medieval Era or Middle Ages, monarchy was the norm. Sure, it might have been nice to have had democratic states, but Medieval economies were so basic, democracies weren't really needed. The decisions that needed to be made on land distribution and other subjects could be handled by having the king visit an area once every five or ten years.

The people of the Arab Middle East are of course as advanced as we in the West are, but their economies aren't at the same level of complexity. Their economies simply don't need the detailed, subtle, sensitive management that our post-industrial economies do. The economic entities there don't require the same level of regulation that our corporations do. For their economic level of development, their more-tribal system is fine.

How about abusive, tyrannical rulers like the pre-2003 Saddam Hussein? Well, on the one hand, keeping a strong grip on Iraq's nationalist passions doesn't appear to have been such a bad idea. Not sure whether Iraq's current low-level civil war would have broken out anyway or whether the occupation provoked the civil war somehow (The fact that John Negroponte was the Ambassador to Iraq for a spell and that he was Ambassador to Honduras during a very busy time for Central American death squads does not fill me with confidence as to the innocence of the US.)

But of course tyranny is bad. Roman citizens disliked serving under Caligula and some of the Egyptian pharaohs came in for severe criticism as well. Tyranny is hardly a modern invention. Yes, democracy is a very good cure for tyranny. But I can't imagine that coming into a country, guns blazing, blasting whole city blocks into rubble is preferable to ANY level of tyranny. At that point, we're speaking of priorities. Dunno, but I sorta suspect people would rather be alive than free. Living right under Caligula (People living 50 miles away had very little to worry about), I might feel differently.

So is imposing democracy a good idea? No, because that's a completely blue-sky, cherry-tree fantasy. Is there another way to get countries to democratize? Yes, trade, aid, education, economic development, that sort of thing. "But Rich." You say "What can we do that will be effective today?!?!" Can't help ya there. We'll have to use the highly imperfect and often disappointing tool called diplomacy. Need to get democratization done faster? I don't see that the American government is accomplishing any such thing.

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