Democrats & Liberals Archives

Democracy And Terrorism

There’s a really good article in the latest Foreign Affairs, “Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?” Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. Truly democratic Arab states would more accurately reflect the opinion of their citizens, and their opinion of the United States is not good. Today, true Arab democracies would produce governments less inclined to cooperate with (if not outright hostile to) the United States, and more sympathetic to anti-American terrorists.

In recent elections in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, anti-American Islamist candidates did very well. They're popular with the voters. If Osama bin Laden had put together a political party for the Iraqi elections, he'd probably have Jaafari's job.

"If you succeed militarily - and you will - and if Iraq were to become a democracy, it would almost surely elect a religious extremist government," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Senator Bob Graham on the eve of the Iraq invasion. "You will end up with another ayatollah as the head of the government. And that election could cause a cascading throughout the Middle East. The result of your actions, whatever their intentions, could well be two or three more Irans. Is that what you want?"

While Iraqis didn't make Ayatollah Sistani the head of state, they did elect a government dominated by Islamists in which clerics control all legislation through the Iraqi Supreme Court. President Mubarak -- staunchly pro-American and friendly toward Israel -- is himself under pressure from the Bush administration to hold free elections which would surely put the Muslim Brotherhood in control of Egypt. Does President Bush truly believe an anti-American Islamist Middle East is good for America?

In fact, President Bush's 'democracy now at any cost' policy is causing authoritarian regimes like Myanmar and Saudi Arabia to crack down harder on reformers, and is even causing the reformers themselves in Syria to back off in order to spare their countries the chaos and violence they see unfolding in Iraq.

No doubt democracy is a good thing -- unless it sweeps terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood into power. President Bush is right when he says democratizing the Middle East is a long term effort, but he needs to heed his own rhetoric. He should patiently help strengthen non-Islamist opposition parties, and not force democracy on countries until it's assured the result won't be another anti-American Islamist regime.

Posted by American Pundit at October 13, 2005 1:19 PM
Comments
Comment #85630

I don’t agree.

It’s not democracy that’s the problem, it’s the context in which we push it. It won’t help if we put the alternative in place, after all, our propping up of the Saudi royals and Egyptian President got us the thanks of most of the 19 hijackers, expressed on 9/11.

No, we got to acknowledge that it’s our insistence that they have a Democracy our way right now that turns them against us.

It took many years for our Democracy to shape up into the more inclusive one it is today. We should let the social forces that Democracy unleashes do the hard work.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 13, 2005 2:04 PM
Comment #85643

Pundit
Good piece.

I may agree(gulp)

This I know:Some countries function well under other forms of governance…China being one example.

I think Democracy is evolutionary and is dependant on cultural reception.

You get an “A” today

Posted by: sicilianeagle at October 13, 2005 3:39 PM
Comment #85652

In another sign of the apocalypse not only does SE agree with Pundit, I actually agree with SE.

I too believe that democracy is an evolutionary process, and entirely dependent on cultural reception. Certain cultures take to certain governments better than others. While trying to establish democracy could be taken as noble, I fear that unless done precisely it will end up causing us more problems.

Posted by: chantico at October 13, 2005 4:37 PM
Comment #85653

American Pundit,

Recently, according to the article there have been elections in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq with anti-American Islamist candidates doing well.

Since “election” generally indicates that votes were cast to determine the outcome, I am curious as to how the voting requirements, regulations, etc. differ in those countries from the ones in the US.

Additionally, I would be interested in knowing (if any are available) the statistics on voter preference by age and sex.

For example : Among women voters between 18 and 35, anti-American Islamic candidates get 30% of the votes while among men voters, those same candidates get 90% of the vote.

Also, if voter registration is required prior to voting, what % of the voting eligible population
actually votes.

Posted by: steve smith at October 13, 2005 4:47 PM
Comment #85656

Out of all the countlass countries our nation has intervened in and introduced democracy too, Columbia was considered our only longterm success.

Posted by: Daniel Pitt at October 13, 2005 4:57 PM
Comment #85659

I’m not sure that the form of the new government in Iraq matters much in the large scheme of things. People around the world hate us because we’ve basically been bratty-assed, rich, sniveling playground bullies for a good 50 years or more.

That might not even matter much if had we formed strong, long lasting alliances for that period of time. We haven’t. We’ve changed partners at the dance faster that the drunkest frat boy ever did. I honestly can’t blame people for not trusting us.

We talked about our morality and hatred of terrorism, but when push comes to shove, we’re the first to resort to violence. We’ve proven our true colors time and time again.

The problem is not, and has never been Iraq. It’s just a symptom. We’re at the root cause of why people hate us. Until we can really grasp that, we’ll never fix the problem. I wonder if we could borrow from AA.

‘Hello, my name is Tony, and I have anger/violence and commitment issues…”

Posted by: tony at October 13, 2005 5:00 PM
Comment #85667

“Out of all the countlass countries our nation has intervened in and introduced democracy too, Columbia was considered our only longterm success.”

True, and it is now the most democratic exporter of drugs in the world. I guess we reap what we sow.

Posted by: steve smith at October 13, 2005 5:19 PM
Comment #85687

AP,

A stable democratic nation can be dealt with in a manner that would be suit our purposes better than another form of government. We can work on winning over the hearts of the Iraqi people after they have a voice in their government. While Hussein was in power, it wouldn’t matter how much the Iraqis liked us, or what we did for them, as long as Hussein was still bitter and greedy for power. With a democratic Iraq, when can better address the issues the Iraqis themselves have a problem with, since 1) they’d be better able to voice their dissatisfaction and 2) if we did satsify their desires, their elected officials would have a responsibility to reflect that and very well may face ousting through the election process if they didn’t.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 13, 2005 6:08 PM
Comment #85688

sicilianeagle,

“This I know:Some countries function well under other forms of governance…China being one example.”

Sure, if you consider beating your citizens on a regular basis and putting down any and all movements that might possibly give them a voice…then yeah, China functions well. But, then again, so did Iraq under Hussein.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 13, 2005 6:10 PM
Comment #85693

AP:

I think you are correct that democracy will not directly impact terrorism especially suicide terrorism.

There is strong evidence that suicide terrorism is caused by democractic countries having combat troops on soil of a country of a different faith. Suicide bombings in the case of 9/11 would have been caused by US combat troops in the pursian gulf region after 1996. The form of government in Iraq will not alter this equation.

The problem the United States must solve is how to keep the oil flowing without troops on the ground. (Blood for oil). Obviously the policy in place during the nineties did not work as it led to the UN scandal, and 9/11.

I can’t think of a way our country could protect

The current policy is also not working well as has been discussed many times here at watchblog. The only “hope” from my perspective is a stable goverment in Iraq that is not a threat to it’s neighbors, and does not require US military on the ground in the gulf area. If the area can eventually become stable enough so that our troops can stay on board ships, such as before 1990, the threat of suicide bombings in the US should drop dramically.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 13, 2005 6:37 PM
Comment #85718

Heh. You guys are too funny.

Bring Democracy? Are you nuts? The USA is only interested in CONTROLLING other countries. The Democracy crap is just rhetoric.

Iran is the perfect example of this. Iran used to be a democratic country. They elected a Socialist President. The CIA then instigated a coup and installed the Shaa as Ruler of Iran.

What is so democratic about that?

Posted by: Aldous at October 13, 2005 8:59 PM
Comment #85721

I think we have no choice but to bring Democracy. We bring any other form of government, and the stink of imperialism wafts onto us. Let them disagree now. Deal with it if they elect an extremist.

Intervene if the extremist destroys the ability of the Democracy to govern, and do so with international support and reconstruction afterwards. The old paradigm of installing friendly governments and not worrying about how their actions will reflect on us simply cannot continue. We must be seen as defenders of Democracy and freedom, not obstacles to such.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 13, 2005 9:54 PM
Comment #85723

AP,
Thought provoking article. Good job!

I like Bush best when he advocates an idealistic policy for spreading democracy.

Democracy being a political system which provides people with a representative government which ensures freedom & liberty.

I like Bush least when he advocates solving problems through war.

Terrorism is a tactic. Usually it occurs in asymmetrical warfare, when the weaker side seeks to inspire terror by attacking civilians.

Democracy is a political system, terrorism a tactic used in warfare. There is no reason why comparing the two should reveal a relationship.

In idealistic terms, a proponent of the current US foreign policy could argue that a democracy is morally superior, that a democracy is less likely to engage in conflicts with neighbors, and that, if a conflict does occur, a democracy would not resort to a morally inferior tactic like terrorism.

Regrettably, history is filled with examples of democracies using morally reprehensible tactics in warfare. It’s hardly surprising. War brings out the worst in us. And when pressed hard enough, any means to win become acceptable.

Posted by: phx8 at October 13, 2005 10:10 PM
Comment #85730

Long-term success in fostering democracy is long-term work, but it can be done. Think of Japan. How radical and suicidal was Japan in the 1940s. It would not have turned into a democracy if left on its own. How about what was called a permanent basket case as late as the 1960s - S. Korea? Even Germany. Absent allied victory, would Germany be a democracy today? Absent allied victory, would any place in Europe be what we would call a democracy?

The U.S. did very good work encouraging democracy in E. Europe. Look at newspapers and magazines from the 1980s. Experts told us that democracy had never flourished there and never would. It is the curse of people that they forget.

You are right that democracy has to be local. The government people live under is mostly their responsibility. But sometimes it takes a shock from the outside to give it a chance. The Argentine dictatorship fell only after their defeat in the Falklands. And sometimes it requires an intervention to get rid of the impediments, as in Germany and Japan.

Like you, I don’t believe the U.S. should be going around the world establishing democracies, although we should encourage them. We intervened in Iraq for a variety of realpolitik reasons. But we what are we supposed to do now? I don’t know if democracy will work there, but what other course can we take but try to make it happen? What other choice do we have?

Posted by: Jack at October 13, 2005 10:55 PM
Comment #85735
We can work on winning over the hearts of the Iraqi people after they have a voice in their government.

Well, that’s the dilemma, isn’t it Stephanie. Do we invade, occupy, and fight insurgencies in Iraq/Syria/Iran/etc until democracy miraculously works its magic? Or do we support viable, non-Islamic democratic opposition parties until they’re strong enough to succeed without our military intervention?

I favor the latter, even though it’s not as exciting.

The old paradigm of installing friendly governments and not worrying about how their actions will reflect on us simply cannot continue.

Sure, and that’s the point. America shouldn’t be toppling governments — especially when the alternative is a freely elected Islamic regime like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Like you, I don’t believe the U.S. should be going around the world establishing democracies, although we should encourage them.

Jack, when you wrote that last paragraph, you should have deleted everything before it. The US did not “intervene” in Germany and Japan. Those countries declared war on us and we kicked their asses.

Experts told us that democracy had never flourished there and never would.

That’s totally untrue. Most E European countries were at least constitutional monarchies, if not outright democracies. Any “expert” who said what you’re attributing to them was not an expert.

In any case, democracy didn’t flourish in E Europe because the United States invaded and liberated them. It flourished because a bunch of really smart people (mostly Democrats, of course) laid the foundation for its success there — and you know that. The rest of you can read all about it.

But like I said, I agree with your last paragraph. We’re in Iraq now, and we’ve got the tiger by the tail. Like a two-year old discovering that fire is hot, I hope the Bush administration learned from the experience.

We can have our cake and eat it too, like we did in Eastern Europe. We don’t need to invade, occupy, and pour American lives and taxpayer money into a country to create a democracy. And there is no connection between democracy and terrorism.

Posted by: American Pundit at October 13, 2005 11:32 PM
Comment #85737

steve smith, I’m sorry I don’t have those figures — I’m not sure they even exist. Google around and let us know what you find out.

Posted by: American Pundit at October 13, 2005 11:34 PM
Comment #85791

Stephanie,

“A stable democratic nation can be dealt with in a manner that would be suit our purposes better than another form of government.”

And what exactly are our purposes?
I would suggest that any form of government that suits the people of Iraq, for instance, would be light years better than any the United States would push on them.
If they themselves choose Democracy, fine. Otherwise our “purposes” could be construed as counter-productive to the stability in the region. We can only assume that the Iraqis want to be governed Democraticly. We have to look past what is in our best intrests and recognize what is in the best interests of the Iraqis, as determined by the Iraqis, not by the United States.

“We can work on winning over the hearts of the Iraqi people after they have a voice in their government.”

We assumed that we had the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people before we attempted this gambit.

Posted by: Rocky at October 14, 2005 10:39 AM
Comment #85801

—- off topic, somewhat…

OK… none of this matters… we’re not on the road to hell, we’re already there. Someone just showed me this web site… http://www.manties.net/plainb/

We have no credability… no moral standing anymore.

OK… it’s not the end of the world or anything… just proof of some sad, sick, twisted stuff that’s out there…

Posted by: tony at October 14, 2005 12:19 PM
Comment #85846

American Pundit - in response to some specifics I posted re elections in referenced countries in his article, said…

“steve smith, I’m sorry I don’t have those figures — I’m not sure they even exist. Google around and let us know what you find out.”

Guess what ? I did.
Governments, elections and most political formats in the Middle East are extremely difficult to describe. This because there are many varying contingencies. Foremeost among these is the fact that while the predominent religion throughout the region is Islam, there are several “sects” within that major framework.
While we have the same situation in the US it does not have as big an impact because we have a clearly defined division between church and state.not so in the Middle East.

Also lurking in the picture is the issue of human rights, specifically the rights of women which varies widely (either actually or perceived) throughout the area.

My research did not turn up any statistics similar to those which I asked about in my original post. I was able to find things like how many people voted or, are expected to vote in total and (in some cases) by “sect” or internal region. I am not quoting these but, they can be in the hundreds of thousands and higher depending upon country and form of government.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy without elected representative institutions or political parties.
While change is promised, human rights (or lack therof) is deplorable.
In November of 2004, the government began registering non-military, male citizens and candidates for the country’s first nationwide municipal elections.

Lebanon
Decades of conflict between Lebanon and Syria seemed to account for the turmoil in Lebanon. Now, the Syrians are gone and the Lebanese are transitioning to a more stable government. Unfortunately, the reality of a highly sectarian political system is a huge obstacle. A bitter rift exists between the Druze party and the Christian Lebanese forces.

In the Lebanese system, the president is always a Maronite Christian, and the speaker a Shia Muslim.
Both voters and candidates are classified by sect. Seats are allocated on a strictly sectarian basis.
The new parliament has 128 seats. 72 are held by the Hariri-Jumblatt anti-Syrian alliance, Michael Aoun’s group (many but not all Christians) hold 21 seats and the Shia parties - Hexbollah and Amal have 35 seats.

Palestine
Not much to talk about here. Voters must be registered and be 21 and above.

Iraq
This is a current events issue. It is a government in transition in a country ravaged by war and related conflict. A political candidate must collect 500 signatures and, if they are an independent, pay a deposit of 2.5 million Iraqi Dinars or, if a group, a deposit of 7.5 million Iraqi Dinars. Parties, associations or groups with militia wings will not be able to be registered.

Various religious factions/sects influence the make up of the government.
Voter registration is required and voters must be born on or before December 31, 1986.
Out of country voting opportunity will be available in 14 countries including the US. A voter must be an Iraqi citizen, or be entitled to reclaim Iraqi citizenship, or be eligible for Iraqi citezenship.

In my opinion, efforts to move toward a democratic government in the above countries by having elections of any kind is a “smoke and mirrors” facade. While some much needed change may result, the religious influence on government in the Middle East is a “forever” deterrent to any form of government that represents “democracy”.
It is obvious and, thank goodness that we live in a country that precludes religious influence on government.

Posted by: steve smith at October 14, 2005 5:06 PM
Comment #85853

AP,

Neither option seems at all feasible to me.

1) Obviously we lack the power (and the ability to succeed) in the first scenario. I don’t know anyone who has realistically proposed this option.

2) You have no understanding of the Arab nations we currently face if you honestly believe you can cajol them or seduce them in any manner to divorce their religion from their politics. Liberals haven’t even succeeded in doing that here, where it is much more feasible. I strongly urge you to study the Arab cultures we face. Religion isn’t something they do in their spare time there, Pundit, it’s their way of life. For many if not most of them, everything they do revolves around their belief in Allah, everything! You can’t just negate that through minor political parties.

They do not value human life the way we do. They do not value freedom the way we do. They do not even truly understand how these concepts work! In order to insert religious freedom and other freedoms we enjoy, first we have to give them reasons which they can understand and identify with to want those freedoms for themselves and their fellow citizens.

“I favor the latter, even though it’s not as exciting.”

It’s not about excitement. Not for me. If I want excitement I read a fiction novel. Nobody really dies, or gets maimed, or gets terrorized or brutalized or any other nasty thing that happens regularly during war.

Iraq…I supported the war there because I thought Bush wanted to clean the place up, give those people whom we abandoned at the dictates of the United Nations a chance to have a free and happy life, out of danger from the mad whims of Saddam Hussein and his minions. I honestly thought Bush had a workable plan to go in, clean it up, set the now free Iraqis on their feet, and get out. Obviously my belief was very wrong, and for that I’m quite regretful. Bush still has no apparent plan with which to succeed in Iraq, and the majority of Americans (or so it seems) no longer has any idea what success would be. This is extremely unfortunate, and (IMO) needs to be fixed. Iraq needs to be fixed. That Bush seems either unwilling or unable to do that…that’s another great injustice to the Iraqi people, a people who have suffered far too much in recent history with far too much of that justly being laid directly at America’s feet.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 14, 2005 6:02 PM
Comment #85855

Rocky,

“I would suggest that any form of government that suits the people of Iraq, for instance, would be light years better than any the United States would push on them.”

I agree, which is why I think that IF the current Iraqi constitution gets approved that Americans should stand back and let it be. As much as some here call it a theocracy instead of a democracy, it wouldn’t be any more a democracy if the Iraqis didn’t approve it.

“We have to look past what is in our best intrests and recognize what is in the best interests of the Iraqis, as determined by the Iraqis, not by the United States.”

Again, I agree completely. I think we’ve hurt the Iraqis more than enough after the last few decades. We should do what’s necessary to help them, even if we’re not exactly pleased with the results. I would prefer an Iraq that is good to it’s own people and hostile to us, then one that is good to us, but hostile to it’s own people. Ideally, of course, I would want one that is both good to it’s own people AND good to us, but that will take time and would rely on us not messing it up AGAIN.

“We assumed that we had the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people before we attempted this gambit.”

Yeah, and to an extent we did. Now, had Bush not bungled it so badly, we would probably still enjoy their support, but alas… We’ll have to earn it back, without the bungling please.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 14, 2005 6:11 PM
Comment #85896

AP

I recall the general opinon about E. Europe. I follow Poland closely, for example, and it bothered me at the time. The experts were wrong, but that is what they believed. There was alot of talk about going slow. Helmut Schmidt accepted martial law in Poland very mildly, as did most intellectuals, because they didn’t believe in democracy there.

I was in Vienna listening on the very day the Wall came down in relatively nearby Berlin listening to lectures about why Communism in E. Germany and the Soviet Block in general was fundamentally stable.

When democracy comes to the Middle East, everyone will conveniently forget that they ever doubted it.

BTW - the Iraqi referendum will go well this weekend. There will be high turnout among the Sunnis as well the others. The constitution will pass easily and the country will begin to come to an uneasy but workable modus vivendi. The Al Qaida will occasionally be able to stage spectacular events, but - like the Marxists tweny years ago - they are a spent force. They just ain’t yet got the word that they are in history’s trash heap. Save the papers from last week because maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon everyone will say they predicted this successful outcome. And they will say it was inevitable.

Posted by: Jack at October 15, 2005 12:52 AM
Comment #85905

Jack, regarding E Europe, I didn’t realize you were talking solely about the Communist years. I was talking pre-WWII. Either way, your experts were wrong. And I don’t remember hearing any of that (I still have family in Lithuania which I closely followed).

As for Iraq, of course the referendum will pass. As I said, the Bush administration and the Shiite/Kurd government have too much invested in it.

It sounds like your idea of a successful outcome is denying the Sunnis a chance to participate (the constitution calls for a purge of Sunnis from the government and a federal partitioning which leaves the Sunni provinces weak and destitute), and a constant state of low-grade civil war in which the Sunnis are suppressed (by US troops, unfortunately) until they’re beat down so hard you never hear from them — like the Shiites in Saudi Arabia.

I suppose that would lead to a stable Iraq, but it’s not a solution I’d be proud of.

Posted by: American Pundit at October 15, 2005 1:48 AM
Comment #85939

AP

It was conventional wisdom among intellectuals in the U.S. and Europe.

I remember Fortune Magazine ran an article around 1990 quoting experts in the middle 1980s saying that Communism and its authoritarian way were more or less natural and permanent in E. Europe and then comparing them to quotations saying how they had predicted the result.

The Sunnis, with only 20% of the population, should not expect to have a determining voice in the future of Iraq. A working democracy protects minority rights, but it features majority rule. As for running the place, a minority has the opportunity to make compromises and deals so that it becomes part of a majority. Their voice can be heard in that way. That is the only thing required by morality or procedure.

If the Sunnis were oppressed, I would consider it a bad outcome. If they are ignored, that is their problem. It is their job to find common cause with other Iraqis or adapt to the situation. It is also likely in a democracy that other groups will seek them as allies. It is a practical consideration and it may be smart to do, but the majority has no moral duty to court a minority.

Posted by: Jack at October 15, 2005 12:37 PM
Comment #85943
It was conventional wisdom among intellectuals in the U.S. and Europe.

I don’t remember that at all. I do remember a lot of excitement around the world over democratic reformers like Lech Welesa and Vaclav Havel. Lawrence Eagleberger even thought Milosovic (who innovatively ran the Yugoslav state bank at the time) would make a wonderful capitalist. Certainly, neither the Pope nor President Reagan ever thought E Europe couldn’t democratize.

The Sunnis, with only 20% of the population, should not expect to have a determining voice in the future of Iraq.

Of course not. On the other hand, the constitution explicitly calls for a purge of Sunnis from the government and creates a system of regions that leaves the Sunni heartland destitute and isolated (It also creates a constitutional theocracy where the clerics have control over all legislation and a centrally controlled socialist economy, but that’s a different topic).

Jack, the Shiites even changed the election rules to screw the Sunnis until the UN made it clear they would consider the result illegitimate. From day one, the Kurds and Shiites shut the Sunnis out of the political process and President Bush let it happen because it was expedient.

I don’t condone the Sunni attacks, just as I don’t condone the Shiite militias assassinating Sunni leaders and the Kurds cleansing the Sunnis from Kirkuk — with the full knowledge of the US military and the Bush administration.

But the fact is, the Sunnis are being oppressed and sidelined, and this constitution makes it official. As I said, beatin’ down the Sunnis (with the US Marines leading the charge) will eventually solve the stability problem, just like beatin’ down the blacks would have solved America’s race problems back in the 50s and 60s. It works, but I don’t want to have anything to do with a country that allows that to happen.

Posted by: American Pundit at October 15, 2005 1:27 PM
Comment #90537

I strongly disagree ,

I think this article is just based on theary that all the people in the middle east are naturaly killer,and they were born with natural desire to blow themselves up as a suicide bombers;therefore, we need some powerful not democratic government to prevent them doing terrorist acts!!!


Have u ever think what are the reasons that we have terrorist in middle east?

poverity and lake of education are the main problems.

why we have these problems there? because they have undemocratic government

Posted by: reza at November 4, 2005 3:16 PM
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