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Thursday, July 24, 2003

# Posted 8:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

WOOLSEY ON DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: Hey, it ain't erotica, but after all, I am a married man. This article by Jim Woolsey in Sunday's Observer (London) is a nice rendition of a speech he's been giving for some time. The final section is particularly worthy of applause, and even citing:
My most controversial point may be about what needs to be done to fight this war in the Middle East. We will have great difficulty bringing peace to the region without changing the nature of governments there - without bringing democracy.

If one starts out from the proposition that this is a task for America, Britain or others to accomplish principally with military forces, we will fail. We have to take a much longer view, and, for example, pay attention to the brave newspaper editors - such as one in Saudi Arabia who recently took on the religious police and got himself fired by the Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz. There are similar brave reformers in Egypt and other countries who are effectively the green shoots springing up through the pavement, indicative of a growing approach, a growing openness in much of the Muslim world to democracy and liberty.

Some people seem to think that this is a hopeless task. Two points: first, the substantial majority of the world's Muslims live in democracies - Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Mali, the Balkans. They may not be perfect democracies but they are democracies nonetheless. I am the Chairman of Freedom House, the oldest human rights organisation in America. Freedom House says that there are a hundred and twenty one democracies, eighty nine of them free - that is, they have parliamentary elections plus the rule of law. Another thirty two are partly free, like Russia or Indonesia, say, with substantial difficulties with respect to the rule of law, but nonetheless regular elections.

In the eighty-nine years since the guns of August 1914, the world has gone from ten or twelve democracies to over a hundred and twenty, and those ten or twelve in 1914 were democracies only for the male portion of the populations. Nothing like that has happened within a single lifetime in world history before. Anyone eighty nine years old has seen democracies multiply tenfold.

Most of those came about not through military force, but in all sorts of ways. During and after the Cold War, for example, in Iberia, the role of the German Social Democrats was important in working with their socialist colleagues to steer Spain and Portugal away from communism and totalitarianism and towards democracy. In the Philippines, it was people power. In Mongolia, Mali and countries all over the world, democracy has become a way of life.

These are places where, year after year, the smart, self-appointed experts have said, 'X will never be a democracy'. They said that the Germans would never be able to run a democracy, the Japanese would not, Catholic countries would not - because in the 1970s, Iberia and Latin America were non-democratic. They said it about people from a Chinese cultural background, yet the Taiwanese seem to have figured it out; maybe China will too. They said it about the Russians; after all, they missed the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment - how could they run a democracy? But they seem to be getting started.

All along, the smart money has been wrong on this subject. It is not that there are no retrograde steps. There are in Venezuela and elsewhere, and in the Arab world, a portion of the Muslim world, there are some two hundred-plus million Arabs who live without democracy. This is an area where the transition will be difficult for a series of historical, cultural and religious reasons, many to do with the influence of the Wahhabis.

Nonetheless, it is not hopeless. It is the best path to peace, since democracies do not fight one another. They fight dictatorships and dictatorships fight each other, and democracies sometimes preempt against dictatorships, but they do not fight one another.

If we want to be successful in this long war, we will have to take on this issue of democracy in the Arab world. We will have to take on the - and I would use the word 'racist' - view that Arabs cannot operate democracies. We will need to make some people uncomfortable.

As we undertake these efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere, occasionally by force of arms but generally not, generally by influence, by standing up for brave students in the streets of Tehran, we will hear people say, from President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt or from the Saudi royal family, that we are making them very nervous. And our response should be, 'Good. We want you nervous. We want you to change, but realise that now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, the democracies are on the march. And we are on the side of those whom you most fear: your own people.'
Hear, hear!
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