Thursday, December 16, 2004
# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
“Democracy in the Middle East Is Impossible Until the Arab-Israeli Conflict Is Resolved”So how about proposing the most radical solution of all to the Arab-Israeli conflict: a democratic Palestinian state. Perhaps because George W. Bush doesn't have sufficient credibility, no one praises him for suggesting that the Palestinians should have the same freedom as the Israelis. With any luck, the Palestinian people will take the first step toward liberating themselves by participating enthusiastically in the upcoming election -- and demanding that their elected officials behave democratically once they are in office.
Regardless, concerned Arabs will always have some example of American hypocrisy to point to if they so desire. If not the Palestinians, then Abu Ghraib. If not Abu Ghraib, then Mubarak. If not Mubarak, then Musharraf. Chances are that the United States will have close relations with some dictator or oil sheikh right up until the whole Middle East is democratic.
Thus, the real key to enhancing our credibility is to demonstrate that when we set out to promote democracy that we get the job done. The idea of a rapid-fire reverse-domino effect may be, as Carothers says, an example of "magical realism". Yet if Iraq and Afghanistan have elected, moderately liberal governments five or ten years down the road, Arabs will take notice.
Now here's my favorite point from Tom's article:
“Islamists Are the Main Obstacle to Arab Democracy”I won't comment any further on that one, so let's move on to the most controversial point in Tom's article, at least from a liberal perspective:
“Promoting Women’s Rights Is Crucial for Democratic Change”It's sad but true. The United States managed to build and consolidate a (profoundly flawed) democratic order that brutalized African-Americans and made women into second-class citizens. Fifty years from now, the Arab world may be a sort of women's Jim Crow.
Last but not least, we come to the point in Tom's article that threatens everything that OxBlog stands for:
“Middle East Democracy Is the Cure for Islamist Terrorism”This last point will no doubt cheer Matt Yglesias, who is fond of pointing out that the first truly independent government in Iraq will crush the insurgents by resorting to the exactly the sort of horrifically brutal methods that provoke international outrage if the United States used them.
However, there are also numerous examples of unrestrained violence triggering an even more massive revolt. Both the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalists tried to exterminate Mao's communists, only to have Mao & Co. prevail in the end. For those whose political memories extend back to the 1980s (or happen to write dissertations on the subject), Nicaragua and El Salvador provide examples of right-wing dictatorships whose brutality destroyed them.
But this point is secondary. The real issue is whether democratic reform can resolve a problem whose origins clearly include factors other than the lack of democracy. In theory, the emergence of pristine liberal democracies in the Middle East probably would be enough to put an end to terrorism regardless of its cause. The real issue is whether flawed democracies that won't measure up to Western standards for at least a generation can make a difference in the War on Terror.
Disputing that notion, Carothers points to active terroist organizations in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal. What I'd be interested to know is whether there is an observable relationship between democratic progress in those three nations and efforts to fight terrorism. Also, is it just an accident that terrorists in all those nations target their own government rather the United States or Europe? Does democracy lead terrorists to recognize that the answer to their problem lies at home, not in Washington or New York?
UPDATE: MY has some thoughts about the Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
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