ARRRRRRGH: Mods please delete prior post!
I meant to paste this:
I’ve given this subject a lot of thought. Ever since the day I heard an old man in the sahel dismiss democracy as ‘hand-waving politics’.
No easy answers.
The idea of democracy in terms of parliamentary politics must become rooted in society, and for that to happen, the society, in my opinion based on observation, has to achieve a certain type of organization. I guess we can call that ‘modern civil society’ wherein traditional blood and other relationship based allegiances at least begin to be subsumed under national level interest based political groupings.
Just having elections does nothing for that – for all that North Americans have an almost religious belief in the idea of ‘holding elections’ and few seem to realize how important civil society is, and how hard it is to achieve. I recall making this point in one of those tedious gun control threads where folks rant on about how guns preserve freedom, to which someone replied ‘you have more faith in man than I’ – or something along those lines. Rather missing my point, that the way any institution or social organization in a society, including gun ownership, works in society is utterly and completely dependent on the nature of civil society, the internal values. In America, arguably, gun ownership may be liberty preserving due to its internal values and the robust civil society. In places I’ve been, the fact that every male older than 14 owns at least an AK if not a passel of grenade launchers does nothing to guarantee liberty, rather the contrary. It wasn’t my faith in mankind that led to that comment, it was my unfaith in mankind.
Civil society, internal values have to evolve to support and give meaning to the institutions. Nothing teaches this more than living in the MENA region. Let’s take Morocco since I was just reflecting on that in regards to the Western Sahara with sailor. Morocco was ruled with nothing less than an iron fist by King Hassan II, who survived no less than 3 coup attempts. And he was mean. Really mean, e.g. if you attempted a coup against him, not only would he punish you, he’d put your family 3 steps removed and your associates in some Saharan hellhole until they died. (The infamous Tazmamart prison, e.g.) Nasty fucker.
However, his iron rule may have been instrumental in essentially crushing the life out of pre-modern forms of social organization in Morocco – in effect laying the groundwork for what currently appears to be a positive route to developing a real democracy, not a sham democracy like Egypt (which btw began well in the late 19th, early 20th century – colonial issues and Nasser may have aborted that) or the bizarre and bloody perversion of society that is Algeria. Had the iron fisted Hassan, who nonetheless had traditional legitimacy and deep-rooted respect (in addition to fear, real genuine fear) been replaced by say the General Ouafkir in the 1973 coup (I think it was 73, maybe it was the 75 one…) I doubt Morocco would look different than Algeria does today. Maybe not, but still.
In short, when people write nonsense about bringing democracy to say Afghanistan (and let me take this opp to point out my predictions in re the evolution, made back in November, have been 100% on, except I was too optimistic) are being naïve fools and idiots. Afghanistan needs to rebuild a civil society, but it will have to do so by relying on something other than western style elections – the society is simply not ready for that.