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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Democracy is Not the Answer

The argument that democracy had made the Muslim world dysfunctional was always chancy.
statue-of-liberty-crying-liberty-cries-sad-hill-news

To understand how we got to the point that spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support a government run by people who have been at war with us for almost a century is a policy that most foreign policy experts endorse, it helps to take a brief trip back in time.

In the last century, our big three wars, the two we fought and the one we didn’t, were against enemies who were seen as being distinguished by a lack of democracy, with the Kaiser, the Fuhrer and the Commissar embodying the antithesis of the American system.

The Democratic Party, which stood at the helm during both hot wars, was able to link its brand to the wars by defining them as struggles for democracy. The process of de-nationalizing war from a conflict between nations and ethnic groups was only partly realized in WWI, where invective against the “Huns” still simmered, but was largely achieved in WWII; with some exceptions made for Japan.

This idealization of war made post-war reconstruction and alliance easier. National and ethnic grudges were set aside and replaced by ideological platforms. If the trouble was a lack of democracy, then all we needed to do was defeat the tyrant’s armies, inject democracy and stand back. Focusing on democracy made it possible to rebuild Germany and Japan as quasi-pacifist entities expressing their grievances toward the Allies from the pacifistic stance of the moral high ground, rather than  through  military rearmament and revenge.

The United States had traded Hitler for Gunter Grass and while both hated the United States, Gunter Grass would write nasty essays about it, instead of declaring war on it.

And democracy made it easier to turn liberals against the Soviet Union, which had tossed aside every pretense of being a bottom-up system for what was clearly a top-down tyranny. The liberals who had believed in a war for democracy in Europe had difficulty tossing it aside after the war was over. And that emphasis on democracy helped make a national defense coalition between conservatives and liberals possible. Both might have fundamental disagreements, but they agreed that democracy was better than tyranny. And if that was true, then America was better than the USSR.

This strategy was effective enough against existing totalitarian systems. It however had a major weakness. It could not account for keeping a totalitarian ideology from taking power through the ballot box.

The assumption that because the Nazis and the Communists rejected open elections that they could not win open elections was wrong. Democracy of that kind is populism and totalitarian movements can be quite popular. The Nazis did fairly well in the 1932 elections and the radical left gobbled up much of the Russian First Duma. The modern Russian Communist Party is the second largest party in the Duma today.

Democratic elections do not necessarily lead to democratic outcomes, but the linkage of democracy to progress made that hard to see. The assumption that democracy is progressive and leads to more progress had been adopted even by many conservatives. That fixed notion of history led to trouble in Latin America and Asia. And it led to total disaster in the Arab Spring.

Cold War America knew better than to endorse universal democracy. Open elections everywhere would have given the Soviet Union more allies than the United States. The left attacked Eisenhower and Kennedy as hypocrites, but both men were correct in understanding that there was no virtue in overthrowing an authoritarian government only to replace it with an even more authoritarian government; whether through violence or the ballot box.

As time went on, Americans were assailed with two interrelated arguments. The left warned that the denial of democracy was fueling Third World rage against the United States. By supporting tyrants, we were conducting an occupation by proxy. And on the right we heard that tyranny was warping Third World societies into malignant forms. The left’s version of the argument directed more blame at America, but both versions of the argument treated democracy as a cure for hostility.

September 11 appeared to confirm one or both of the arguments as policymakers and pundits found themselves confronted with an unexpected wave of hostility from countries that they had not spent much time thinking about.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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5 Responses to “Democracy is Not the Answer”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    "It’s time to stop putting our faith in Democracy. Democracy for all is not the answer. Responsibility for all is."

    Precisely the argument European fascists made in the 1930s.

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

  2. Zachary Kessin says:

    I always liked the Al Smith quote… "The Cure for the ills of Democracy is More Democracy"

  3. Hazel Armstrong says:

    You appear to have missed the point. Democracy is a western hemisphere concept based on Enlightenment values which conceived principles of universal education, rational thinking and individual responsibilities based on those teachings. It is not a 'cure all' for illiterate, poverty-stricken, corrupt, tyrannical societies indoctrinated in barbaric, 7th century, absolutism i.e. Islam is destined to rule the world by either conversion or elimination of the Infidel and Greenfield's analysis is accurate in its overview of Jew.

    Are you seriously suggesting that, it is a good idea for western nations to financially support states openly dedicated by word and deed to the genocide of Judaeo/Christian society? That logic is now a "fascist" principle? That Churchill would have supported the insanity of Western appeasement of Islamism?

    "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. … No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
    (Winston Churchill)

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    "Islam is destined to rule the world by either conversion or elimination of the Infidel "

    Christianity has made similar claims.

    "Judaeo/Christian society"

    There is no "Judaeo-Christian" anything. Rabbinic Judaism has much more in common with Sunni Islam than with any Christian movement.

    '"fascist" principle'

    Fascism, Nazism, and Communism did not arise out of the Muslim world.

  5. Mildred Bilt says:

    Anybody out there ready to define democracy? No descriptions please-definition only. As a post script-where does democracy exist today? for Charlie Hall; Aristotle said that democracy is the best form of government except that it doesn't work. To grasp that fully, read the history of the implementation of democracy in Athens. It's a comic litany and was tossed as fast as possible. Totally simplistic.

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