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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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Democracy is Not the Answer

The argument that democracy had made the Muslim world dysfunctional was always chancy.
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The fundamental error that they made was in framing a new war with Islamism in terms of the ideas that had been applied to the Third World when its countries were pawns in the Cold War. The issue was no longer whether a Muslim country would align with the United States or the USSR, but whether it would express the historical destiny embedded in its religion.

The first great failure to understand this came in Iran. The Carter Administration aided what it thought was a historical revival that might restrain Communism, without realizing the genie being let out of the bottle. The entire course of the Arab Spring could have been foreseen 31 years earlier. And while, during the Cold War, there might have been some excuse for choosing Islamists over Communists, during the Arab Spring that same choice no longer applied.

The argument that democracy had made the Muslim world dysfunctional was always chancy. The best counterargument to it was that second and third-generation Muslims in Europe were often more radical than their immigrant parents. If democracy were a cure for Islamism, it was working very poorly in London, Oslo and Paris.

The assumption of the argument was that the tyranny that a people were living under was unnatural while the outcome of a democratic election would be natural. And yet, if a people have been warped for a thousand years by not living under a democracy, how could they be expected to choose a form of government that would not be warped? Was there any reason to expect that such efforts at democracy would not lead to tyranny?

The dangerous question, closed off by generations of faith in democracy, was whether a country’s bad behavior was the fault of its government or its people. In a truly absolute tyranny, such as North Korea, where the people have absolutely no room to deviate from dogma and are forced to worship the state, it may be reasonable to assume that the state does not truly represent the people. Comparing South Korea to North Korea gives us ample reason to believe that the effect of freeing North Korea would lead to an outcome more like East Germany and less like Egypt.

But few tyrannies are truly absolute. The dictatorship where a Kim Jong Il or a Gaddafi operate in their own version of reality while imposing their insane whims on the rest of the population are not as typical as most people think.

The average dictatorship is not all that fundamentally different from what a democracy would be like in the same place. Some, like Putin’s Russia, blur the lines. Even when they don’t go to the trouble of holding elections, they do rely on public consensus. The dictatorship where 99 percent of the people hate the dictator is a very rare thing. Mubarak, for example, had an extensive base of loyalists, and it would not be impossible to rule out their return to power, considering that Ahmed Shafik won 48.3% of the vote in the Egyptian presidential election, losing to Morsi by barely 120,000 votes.

The Arab Spring has taught us to question the idea that democracy is an absolute good. Initially the outcome of the Palestinian Arab elections that rewarded Hamas was thought not to apply to the wider region. That assumption proved to be wrong. We now know that Hamas’ victory foreshadowed the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory. And we know that Islamists have the inside track in elections because they represent a familiar ideology that has not been discredited in the minds of a majority of Muslims.

We can no longer afford to be bound by a Cold War argument against Communism that has outlived its usefulness, especially once liberals turned left and defected from a national security consensus. Universal democracy has proven to be about as universal a panacea as international law or the United Nations. And relying on it undermines our ability to look after our own interests and defend ourselves.

Classifying ideologies as democratic or undemocratic has blinded us to their content and their appeal. And it gives these ideologies an easy way to discredit our only line of attack against them. Too many Republicans were flailing after the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Egypt; unable to articulate a reason why the United States should not support a democratically elected government. And yet the reasons are obvious, once we ignore the election as largely irrelevant to the nature of the Brotherhood and to the threat it poses to our interests.

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/ These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion 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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