Excellent post, Kirk. Thanks for the history lesson
|| I'll probably get flamed from every direction for this, but...
|| There is no reason to expect that democracy (or any other kind of
||security or freedom) will EVER happen in the Middle East. In fact, the
||odds are stacked seriously against that. If, for the purposes of this
||discussion, we define democracy (and freedom, liberty, etc.) as an
||official (and at least partially real) recognition that the state
||belongs to its citizens, instead of the other way around, then I can
||think of exactly ONE time in all of human history where that idea has
||taken root and grown successfully.
|| The Magna Carta was the seed from which EVERY existing human culture
||that might be called democratic, or based in any way on individual
||rights, has grown. Prior to 1215, every human culture of significant
||size or influence that had ever existed was based in some way on the
||unconditional rule of individulas from just three special classes: 1.
||Warlords, who gained and maintained possession and/or control of land
||and populations by force. 2. Monarchs, who inherited and maintained
||possession and/or control of land and populations by heredity (usually
||passed down from from someone who started his dynasty as a warlord).
||And 3. Religious rulers, who mainained possession and/or control of land
||and populations through a belief that they had some special divinity, or
||access to a diety, which empowered them in ways not possible for mere
||mortals. The modern world has also added a fourth category: "Popular
||Rulers", as in communist cultures, who gain and maintain possession
||and/or control of land and populations in the same way as religious
||rulers, but who claim that their special status and capactiy to rule
||comes from dieties they called "The Proletariate" or "The Masses" or
||"The Will of the People", rather than from conventional gods.
|| And, except for the cultures which have descended from 13th century
||England, or those few which have successfuly emulated English-style
||liberty, there are no free cultures in the world today, that I can think of.
|| It's true that other attempts have been made, and that other times
||and places have produced the beginnings of democracy; but none of those
||survived or succeeeded. I'm thinking of ancient Greece, with its
||relative freedom of thought and expression, which provided the
||environment occupied by Socrates, Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras, etc.
||For the members of the "empowered classes", Greece was a pretty good
||place to live. But it was also the center of an empire, conquered and
||ruled by a warlord; and its freedoms were reserved exclusively for the
||empowered classes, and not to the majority of its population, who were
||slaves and subjugates.
|| Rome had a senate, and the beginnings of a parlaimentary government;
||but that too was only for the priviliged few, and served mostly as a
||means to rule an empire of force. By the time Rome had reached the end
||of its lifetime, there were more slaves in Rome than there were Romans.
|| And, of course, neither Greece nor Italy is exactly a world power today.
|| England and it's philosophical descendants, however, represent a
||unique and relatively long-lived departure from the norm. The US,
||Canada, Australia, and other parts of what used to be the British
||Empire, all enjoy relative freedom, and relatively high standards of
||living, and security, and overall prosperity, compared to the rest of
||the world. Nations like Fance, Germany, Japan, and even, to some
||extent, Mexico, are examples of nations that had no long or continuous
||history of developing freedom; but which abandoned their pasts and
||embraced the English model when major upheavals (usually wars) created a
||discontiuity in their histories, and provided the opportunity to change
||course. It's no accident that parlaimentary style governments exist in
||so many different places, and despite so many different histories. When
||a culture needs or wants to bury its tyrants and try something new,
||there is really only one successful model to borrow from the entire
||history of humankind.
|| This idea has two important implications in the Middle East, I
||think. First, places like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palistine, etc.,
||have no history or tradition of even THINKING in ways that are
||consistent with freedom or democracy of any kind. They aren't
||accustomed to thinking in terms of individual rights that aren't
||routinely compromised by violence, religious law, or both. And, they
||can't BECOME accustomed to that kind of thinking in any short time
||period. It's taken dozens of generations for English-style freedom to
||become the norm in those parts of the world that use it. The Mid-East
||is not going to make a spontaneous transformation in any less time. In
||fact, given the general animosity of the Islamic world for the West,
||it's likely to take LONGER that it did in English-descended cultures.
|| And, there seems to be no hope for any serious discontinuity that
||will offer the Mid East an opportunity for sudden change. Even today,
||when Iraq has been invaded and conquered by Western powers, the
||conquering armies are taking special pains NOT to disrupt the existing
||culture. We're unwilling to demand or expct that Iraquis, or Afghanis,
||or whoever, abandon the traditions that guide their lives, their
||thinking, and their view of the world; but we still hope they'll find a
||way to integrate democracy into some of the most non-democratic
||ideologies imaginable. If you think that "seamless hybrids" are tough
||to do in a computer, just try doing them in a whole country, or in an
||entire region of the world where non-democratic culture has roots that
||go back THOUSANDS of years!
|| (It's worth noting that the Code of Hamurabi is probably the very
||first and most important example of working formal law, and of limits of
||any kind on rulers and their friends. But that code, and the principles
||it represented, were long ago abandoned and forgotten in the Mid East,
||and have been replaced by Islamic law, and by combinations of religious
||rulers and warlords.
|| If the Islamic world doesn't grow democratic ideas on its own (and
||it shows no indication that it can, or that it wants to), or if the
||traditions and momentum of thousands of years aren't brought to a sudden
||(and probably violent) end, and replaced at gunpoint by something else
||(as with the end of Imperial Japan, or of the Kaiser's Germany), then
||the probability that democracy ever CAN take root in the Mid East is
||essentially nill. Western leaders who imagine that deposing a single
||ruler, or removing a single government, or offering bribes and favors
||even to millions of civilians, will change the fundamental characters of
||some of the oldest civilizations on Earth, and will do so in less than a
||thousand years or so, are completely clueless.
|| We're supposed to be engaged in something called "nation building";
||but anyone who's ever done ANY kind of successful building will tell you
||that you CAN'T build on the site of existing stuff unless you're willing
||to do some serious demolition first. I'm not advocating demolition. I
||don't claim that it's our job or our business to tell the folks in the
||Middle East how to run their countries. But if we're going to tell
||them, and if we're really going to build new nations, then we need to be
||honest with everyone, including ourselves, about the fact that buldozers
||and excavators always come first, before the carpenters and bricklayers
||can even pretend to start work.
Rex in Fort Worth