Sunday, February 12, 2006

# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ANTI-CARTOON JIHAD AND THE FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: As an unwavering advocate of global democracy promotion, I am surprised that its critics have not argued more forcefully that the Arab world isn't ready for freedom if it can't respond to a single cartoon without violence. (Or perhaps they have and I haven't noticed. I've been sort of busy.)

According to skeptical authors such as Fareed Zakaria and Jack Snyder & Ed Mansfield, successful efforts at democratization almost always depend on the presence of strong institutions that uphold law and order even in the face of violent passions. In the presence of such institutions, elections promote freedom. In their absence, they promote chaos.

Now, there have been occasional nods in this direction. Dan Drezner writes that
There's a difference between a democracy and a liberal democracy, and it's clear that the Muslims exercised by this cartoon do not distinguish between the two at all.
Over at the Huffington Post, Gabriel Rotello writes that
It's been a banner week for Samuel Huntington. His thesis about an inevitable "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West was an idea many progressives loved to hate, me included. But the so-called 'cartoon crisis' is forcing a lot of people to give his dire warnings a second look.
I would agree that the idea of free speech is most surely under-appreciated and under-understood in the Arab world. From that premise, it isn't hard to build a plausible argument that an electoral system would quickly degenerate into chaos and violence.

But then we return to the present situation, in which crumbling and brutal dictatorships aren't doing much better at preventing violence and chaos in the Arab world. If anything, such dictatorships desperate efforts to shore up their own legitimacy with the most vile anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda are responsible for so much of the intolerance that resulted in the anti-cartoon jihad.

In other words, neither democracy nor dictatorship may be equipped to address the crisis at hand.

According to Snyder & Mansfield, the wisest course of action in the midst of such a terrible situation is to slowly promote the sort of stable institutions capable of supporting a true democratic order. Although Snyder & Mansfield often talk about puncturing the naive idealism of the democracy promoters who believe that elections are the handmaiden of stability and peace, their alternative strikes me as even less realistic and even more dreamlike.

At the moment, admirable efforts are underway in numerous fledging democracies to train honest judges, honest cops and honest bureaucrats -- the human infrastructure on which stable institutions depend. Those efforts often produce minimal results.

Now imagine how much harder it would be to promote stronger institutions in dictatorships such as Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Strong institutions serve as a check on the absolute power of the executive, so what dictators would make a serious commitment to building them?

Unfortunate as it is, the best hope of building strong institutions is to put in place an electoral system that forces all sides to reckon with the inevitability of being out of power at some point in time. Confronted with their own vulnerability, political actors will have an incentive to create institutions that uphold the rule of law and individual rights.

To be sure, this makes it sound far easier than it really would be to travel the distance from just elections to real democracy. And travelling that distance in the midst of those passions responsible for the cartoon jihad will be very, very ugly.

Events in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories may let us know just how hard and how ugly that journey will be. Will a Hamas in government be more moderate than Hamas in opposition? Will it collect the garbage and the taxes in a way that Fatah couldn't?

Will Sunni participation in Iraq's elections lead to a real compromise with the Shi'ites and Kurds? Or is participation just another means of advancing the armed struggle?

At the moment, I think there are enough shreds of hope to justify full support for electoral systems, rather than a reversion to either supporting dictatorships or insisting that elections achieve nothing in the absence of already-stable institutions.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

The reaction of the Islamic world to the Danish cartoons calls into question President Bush's belief that all people long for freedom. To see the howling moronic mobs in the Islamic world is a cause for despair. I fear that the conflict of our civilization with the "civilization" of Islam will end in nuclear war.

But the biggest enemy of western civilization is not Islam. It is rather the "liberal" left, whose main features are cowardice and hatred of truth, honor, decency and freedom.

You don't believe it? Watch Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. There is a name for their behavior, and that name is "treason".
So does that mean conservatives should forge an alliance with political Islam against the Democratic Party?

Or is the only real choice to take on both at once, by sending stealth bombers out to attack both Fallujah and Berkeley?
longing for ones own freedom, and learning that this involves recognizing the freedom of others are two different things. One is a natural longing in the human heart, and is why the struggle for freedom is universal. the second is a very difficult concept to accept, and is why implementing freedom institutionally is so difficult.

I would say a couple of things

Few democracy promoters expect the Muslim world to accept blasphemy against Mohammed in its own press. Thats why weve constantly said Muslim democracy will look different. And frankly Im not sure it matters much - whats needed in the muslim world is to establish the right to mock the guy in power, NOT a guy whose been dead for 1200 years.

Which doesnt mean we dont stand in solidarity with Denmark. Denmark has the right to ITS concept of democracy, and shouldnt be coerced out of it, not by violence, and not by boycott.

It should be noted that Ayatollah Sistani has opposed violent protests. In general the violent protests have been supported by those in Syria, Iran, Pakistan with the most to lose from democratization.
Post a Comment