The flaw with Mid-eastern democracy

In the Mid-east, democracy is not possible because democratic principles are not a part of the cultural history. Additionally, if a democratic system was instilled in almost any Mid-eastern state, those who would gain power would be an even more frightening lot than we have now.

In Egypt, if true, free elections were held, I don’t think America would be happy with the results. Hosni Mubarak, a decent leader who has much to desire, is struggling with Islamist extremists. If he doesn’t rig the elections, the Islamists (associated with that piece of sh** Ayman al-Zawahiri) will gain parliamentary and executive power in Egypt—a situation that would plunge the region in to chaos. Allow me to explain.

The majority of Egypt’s population is both poor and uneducated. And by poor, I don’t mean minimum-wage-and-welfare-checks poor. Poor in the Mid-east is a horrible, horrible situation. The Islamists, who are well-funded, bring food, clothing, and often shelter to these people. As the saying goes, you are loyal to the hand that feeds you. When election-time comes, who do you think will get the poor Egyptian’s vote? The educated class would be able to discern the danger but the majority would not.

I truly wish there was a replacement for Mubarak but the democratic alternative to him is not going to be a progressive, 21st century leader. He would be associated with al-Zawahiri and try to instill a Saudi/Taliban-type government in Egypt.

As far as I am aware, all the Arab/Muslim countries are in a similar situation where the masses are poor and uneducated, the political opposition is staunchly conservative, and the Islamist parties have the strongest support on the ground.

I don’t believe it is possible for Jeffersonian Democracy to work in the Mid-east considering the cultural history and the current situation. If we replace Saddam with a democratic system, the party that would dominate the new government would be the Islamist party. If we do not pursue democracy we would be seen as hypocrites. If we pursue democracy we will end up with a big stinking mess that might prove the weakness of democracy—that anyone can vote and anyone can win.

How about Turkey? They’re not Arab, but certainly are Muslim.

I do agree that democracy is a huge gamble in Iraq. Could it be worse than what is there now?

It is highly probable that if true democracy evolved, the resultant gov’t might not be pro-American. But that’s the chance you take.

The flaw has nothing to do with Jeffersonian democracy. The flaw is that they all pretty much hate our guts.

Jeffresonian Democracy isn’t the only type of democracy in the whole world, you know.

I have merged the two threads…Mambo, you usually only need to hit the “submit” button once. < grin >

Maybe so, but hating our guts only comes in one flavor.

Elucidator, the US ain’t exactly popular with the Italians or the Belgians either, you know :slight_smile:

Your point being?

That “hating your guts” not only comes in a variety of fruity flavours, but that establishing a democratic process (be it on the US model or the Scandinavian model or the Greek model) and working out a way to settle disputes and conflicts of interest within the society at all levels AND in international territories without resorting to violence is not only possible, but essential.

Sounds splendid.

I’m glad you agree with me.

I guess it doesn’t matter that all those amazing ancient Greek texts that our Western Democratic Principles are based on/inspired by only exist because people in the Middle East saw fit to preserve them. If it weren’t for them, all that stuff would be completely lost to Europeans, who were all about destroying any writings that didn’t agree with their beliefs.

The point is that Arabs (and Mid-Easterners in general) come from a clan oriented history with patriarchal figureheads. Democracy, in the sense where each man gets a vote, almost seems silly to those people. Authoritarianism is the history.

That is not to say that democracy cannot be introduced. It just has to be done slowly–piecemeal. A proverty stricken, uneducated, and uninformed public cannot cast intelligent votes. Democracy in the US would not have succeeded had the voters not been educated and informed enough to make complex decisions.

Bush cannot implement a democracy in Iraq in line with the rhetoric he is promising–“a flowering of democracy” in the region, etc.

Historically true of a lot of countries (England, Ireland, etc).

Iran had a parliamentary democracy from 1906(or so) until the fifties when the Shah overthrew it in a CIA-backed coup. Turkey is currently a democracy. It would seem Democracy is not a foreign concept to the Mid-East.

IIRC, party machines told people who to vote for in the early days of the US. If by educated and informed, you mean ordered by a party machine, then Iraq already has a Baath party machine which serves the same purpose.

Plus, why do you assume Iraqi’s cannot make informed decisions? Do you have literacy statistics or anything to back you up, or are you just going to spew out stereotypical stuff?

Agreed on this. Domino theories in my mind are silly because they neglect significant cultural and historical differences in a region. While I think Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon could eventually become pluralistic democracies, I have a hard time imagining it happening in Saudi Arabia.

One flaw is that democratic outcomes are not always the ones that the U.S. wants: which makes it rather difficult for us to support democracy as zealously as we might hope the U.S. (the self-appointed beacon of the practice, after all) would. We aren’t exactly calling for more democracy in Turkey… where the vast majority of the population opposes giving us basing rights. We certianly are not unambiguously in favor of more democracy in Saudi Arabia. We’ve never been exactly tolerant of regimes which democratically decided to become more socialist: our most major intervention in the Middle East was to overthrow a democracy and replace it with a hated dictator. Democracy is only one convienient thing to push for when it is convienient to do so: not an overidding goal that trumps all our other interests.

Most successful democracies are built not on instant grants of elections, but a strong and well-dispersed civil society. Taiwan is a perfect example: they tried to institute democratic elections after the nationalists took over the island: the result was utter chaos. It was only after decades of industrial policy, party deployment, institution building, creation of a large civil service, and finally sham elections that were increasingly more valid, before a workable democracy emerged.

Most of the Middle East is nowhere near this stage of development. The oil countries in particular are disasterous, because their leaders have NO REASON to disperse any sort of governing civil service other than the military. They get most of their income from oil and foriegn aid. Look at the contrast to how democracy developed in Europe: the government’s income base was largely through taxing the people. This made it not only have to spread out it authority and institutions among the populace, but also created the feeling among both its workers and the people themselves that it was in some way accountable to their concerns. In Middle-Eastern countries, that feeling of accountability really only comes from one major source at present: religious ideas (Islam is veyr much connected not simply to an individual program, but a programe for how all of society should work). But those ideas can be as destructive as they are helpful, and while they may one day be conducive to democracy, they are currently being interpreted in ways that only hurt democratic institution building.

On top of all of this, we have to return to the U.S., and understand something about democracy on the international scale. We never cease to trumpet that we are a democracy, and we for some reason expect that this will impress other countries and peoples. But the plain fact of the matter is: our democratic rule doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to people that can’t vote in our country!! Indeed, our own theories and ideals of democracy should tell us exactly what the problem is. If some foriegn power has considerable control over your life, and you have no say in it, it almost doesn’t matter if that foriegn power is fairly reasonable and just or not. The unrepresented people will grow uneasy: some will protest, and others may rebel.

That, after all, was our American Revolution. The King was not exactly the harshest of despots: but the principle of his power over American lives, when we had no power over his (the way English citizens were more accustomed to having), was grating.

So, it should be no surprise that many parts of the Arab world find our policies (many of which have far more visible impact on their lives than their own home governments) to be cause for anger: even when our policies clearly seem to be pretty decent and well-meaning. No one likes foriegn direction: heck the current administration can’t even cordially stomach foriegn dissent.

This is not an issue of who is right or wrong: it is an issue of how difficult and tricky it is to work ideas like “democracy” into international relations, and our hopes for the Middle East.

Apos, Our Leader has spoken, and yet you harbor these dark doubts. After Iraq, the Kurds will fall blubbering into the arms of thier dear kinsmen, the Turks. The Palestinians will realize what a kindly old bugger Arial Sharon is (“A man of peace!”) and rush to perform Amish-type barn raisings at the nearest Israeli settlement. The lion will lie down with the lamb (in an entirely platonic fashion, mind you!) and harmony, peace and sunshine shall reign universal!

This is the dawning of the Age of America…Age of America…AMERICA…

Dont know what GeeDubya been smoking. Perhaps he doesn’t indulge in glaucoma prevention programs, but if he doesn’t, it makes a damn poor testimonial for Just Say No.