Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bringing Democracy to the Middle East?

We are in Iraq for the right reasons, to help bring democracy to a part of the world that’s never known it. -Rep. John Boehner (R), 2/5/2006

Considering that he is now the House Majority Leader, Boehner is frighteningly ignorant. In fact, democracy is not new to the Middle East.

Consider the following countries/territories:

Palestine

The most obvious counterexample to Boehner’s statement is Israel, which is irrefutably in that "part of the world". It probably goes without saying that Israel is different insofar as it is a Jewish state. In addition to Isreal proper, however, there have been elections in the Palestinian territories since the 1990s. As we all know, they just voted in Hamas.

Egypt

One party state which is nominally a democracy. Egypt first held elections in 1924 as part of its twelve year "Liberal Experiment".

Bahrain

A constitutional monarchy, Bahrain has been holding parliamentary elections since 2002.

Lebanon

Has held elections for decades. To quote the BBC article below, "Women have held the right to vote and to run for office since 1953."

Yemen

Has held parliamentary elections since 1993.

Afghanistan

As well all know, Afghanistan (which is probably a bit far east to be "Middle") held elections in 2004.

Readers will no doubt note that none of these are ideal examples of democracies. The point, however, is that the idea of democracy is far from new to the Middle East.

Sources:

BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3250773.stm
Wikipedia

Posted by Woody Mena at March 26, 2006 11:20 AM
Comments
Comment #135956

He is also strikingly ignorant to reflect the belief that Democracy is Democracy without context. There are many democracies in the world, and their are non-democracies that exercise free elections. Democracy is contextual. Boehner and Bush are just beginning to learn that what develops as democracy in Iraq will not look like democracy in America or England. In many ways, to Americans, it will not function like what we call democracy at all. That is if Iraq is able to hold itself together as an intact nation at all, a scenario looking bleaker by month.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 26, 2006 12:51 PM
Comment #135967

Woody

I don’t believe Boehner is ignorant, he is afterall in a position of considerable power. I believe he is counding on the considerable ignorance of many of our fellow citizens, i.e. his Republican constituency.

Posted by: Dave at March 26, 2006 2:18 PM
Comment #135969

By “part of the world” he could be meaning just “Iraq” or old “Persia” or perhaps the heinous trio of Syria, Iraq, and Iran. To assume he meant the entire Middle East(I didn’t know mind reading was part of a thread starter’s credentials) you could then argue, along with your admitted monarchies and “nominal” democracies, that Iraq had elections before. Saddam after all did get 99% of the vote when he “won” his last election. So don’t forget that irrelevant “democracy” too!!!

Posted by: Brian S. at March 26, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #135974

Since when was it America’s job to spread democracy around the world? Was I not paying attention at the beginning of the school year when everyone was handed their assignments?

Who is the United States to spread democracy when we aren’t exactly a prime example of it in the first place? Only 60-65% of Americans voted in the 2004 Presidential election, and always considerably less during midterm elections.

I hope we don’t graded on this assignment at the end of the school year, because I’m trying to keep my GPA up.

Posted by: bryan at March 26, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #135976

Dave, Saddam Hussein was in a position of power too, that was no insurance policy against his ignorance of the Bush Administration’s resolve and agenda. Had he not been so arrogant and ignorant, he would not have undermined the fact that he got rid of his WMD rather than allude to still having them as a deterrent to an American invasion.

No, reaching a position of power is no insurance against ignorance. Bush, and Hussein both exemplify this fact.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 26, 2006 3:10 PM
Comment #135977

David is right that there are different sorts of democracy, but some sorts fall short. Democracy is more than voting. It also depends on how long it lasts. Lots of places have had one man, one vote, one time A democracy that can’t last out a generation is not much of success, especially if it is replaced with a terrible tyranny. My general rule of thumb is that a democracy is a success after three changes of power among real opposition groups in elections without significant violence or intimidation. Not perfect, but good.

I think it is fair to say that the Middle East is democracy starved. You might have Boehner on a technicality, but the general sweep of his remarks is accurate.

I am sure he knows about Israel. Israel is a special case according to everybody. Despite its claims to ancient lineage, it is really not indigenous to the region in its modern form.

Posted by: Jack at March 26, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #135978

Bryan,

You’re right. I think America and the world would be much better off if we let terrorist states and other evil governments flourish even when we have the legitimate opportunity to confront them.

I mean, who are we to hope for a better world? Why did we challenge the USSR? Why did we challenge ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia? Live and let die, right? Why would we help Korea, or at least half of it, be free? Why would we try to stop the heinous and murderous rule of the Vietnamese Communists? Hell, Nazi Germany didn’t attack us, we shoulda just let France and England lose their democracies too!

Where’s your bus? I’m hopping on that one way trip to isolationist Hell ASAP!

Posted by: Brian S. at March 26, 2006 3:26 PM
Comment #135981

Part of the problem is that we’re confusing our terms and our goals.

“Mohannad al-Azawi had just finished sprinkling food in his bird cages at his pet shop in south Baghdad, when three carloads of gunmen pulled up.”

We seek the observance of human rights. That is the goal.

“In front of a crowd, he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off. Mr. Azawi was among the few Sunni Arabs on the block, and, according to witnesses, when a Shiite friend tried to intervene, a gunman stuck a pistol to his head and said, “You want us to blow your brains out, too?”

Democracy is just one form of government which can offer people a government which observes human rights.

“Mr. Azawi’s body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. A slight man who raised nightingales, he had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot.”

Of course, a democracy doesn’t necessarily mean human rights will be observed. The US now practices torture as a matter of policy.

“Mr. Azawi was… 27 and lived with his parents. He loved birds since he was a boy. Nightingales were his favorite. Then canaries, pigeons and doves.”

A democratic republic would be what most of us consider ideal, but only because that form of government seems most likely to foster observance of human rights, and respect for minorities. Before the US began invading countries and condoning torture and secret prisons, you know, we used to stand for that kind of thing.

“He was crazy about birds,” said a Shiite neighbor, Ibrahim Muhammad.”

In an exercise of democracy, elections have been held in Iraq, and the Shias are attempting to form a government. They control the Interior Ministry and many military units. That alone should be enough to carry the day. Death Squads can be very effective tools of repression.

“Friends said that Mr. Azawi was not interested in politics or religion. He never went to the Sunni mosque, though his brothers did. He did not pay attention to news or watch television. This characteristic might have cost him his life.”

But bringing democracy to a country by force undermines the goal we seek in the first place. We introduce the tool of democracy, but the means we use to introduce it, namely violence, undermines the goal and the point of the whole exercise- human rights.

“His skin was covered with purple welts. His legs and face had drill holes in them. Both shoulders had been broken.”

You know, I really really don’t like Bush.

“If the Americans leave, we are finished,” said Hassan al-Azawi, whose brother was taken from the pet shop.

He thought for a moment more.

“We may be finished already.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/international/middleeast/26bodies.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5088&en=dd8fedf8798bbc1c&ex=1301029200&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss


Posted by: phx8 at March 26, 2006 3:55 PM
Comment #135982

I hope democracy spreads to our country, and we will have free and fair elections. Boehner is certainly an impediment to democracy, being owned by special interests, but I am hopeful about this years congressional elections. The Rpblcns are talking about troop withdrawals from Iraq, so you know it is an election year, and there are voters to manipulate. Boehner is too clever and too crooked to be ignorant. They spin so much, they can not even remember what they are talking about. Also, history is irrelevant. It is the year five of the Bush monarchy, nothing came before him.

Posted by: ohrealy at March 26, 2006 3:58 PM
Comment #135987

In spite of their rhetoric, the Bush League isn’t really interested in trying to spread democracy - they’re trying to spread capitalism. Not at all the same thing.

Posted by: ElliottBay at March 26, 2006 4:20 PM
Comment #135988

Re my “mind reading”: I should have included the next sentence…

Tim, we—we are in Iraq for the right reasons, to help bring democracy to a part of the world that’s never known it. Now, we’ve seen this increasingly instable, or lack of stability, in the Middle East.

Jack,

I don’t think this is a technicality at all. Spreading democracy is ostensibly the cornerstone of our Middle East policy. It makes a difference whether the current project in Iraq is a true innovation or merely the latest in a series of experiments in democracy. The former sounds like something that may be worth the considerable cost of the Iraq War. If you look at the latter, accurate picture, I think the cost/benefit calculation changes considerably.

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 26, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #136001

No country is truly a “democracy”, most are just representative democracies.
All hail democracy, the “supposively” best form of government in the world. Let’s all spread this joyous form of gov’t by invading other nations with guns and bombs under the guise of finding WMDs. Then after all the “anti-democratic” people are killed after a couple decades of occupation, we leave so that they can vote for a radical antisemetic, terrorist supporting political party. Gooooooo Democracy!!!!!

Posted by: greenstuff at March 26, 2006 7:31 PM
Comment #136008

Woody

Who invented the light bulb? Ancient Greeks had versions of light bulbs. It is a fairly simple idea. But it was not until Thomas Edison made his bulb that it really worked. Technically, Edison did not invent the light bulb, but really he did. Everything is a series of experiments until something works.

Iraq is central in the Middle East for geographical, historical and cultural reasons. If democracy can work there (even sort of) it will have more impact than something in Yemen or Lebanon, or a liberal periods under the British protection in Egypt.

The Palestinians among Arabs probably currently enjoy the most democratic system with the most rights. But I seriously doubt most Arabs are enthusiastic about that, or would even admit it.

Posted by: Jack at March 26, 2006 8:38 PM
Comment #136013

Jack,

I don’t know what to say now because you have basically conceded the whole argument. We are trying an experiment, and not a particularly new and innovative one at that. Our justification for going to war has devolved from “immediate danger” to an interesting political science study. Maybe they should give Condi another doctoral degree…

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 26, 2006 10:11 PM
Comment #136015

Woody

We went to war for a variety of reasons. The proximate cause was our belief that Saddam was building WMD. The intelligence turned out to be flawed. We would not have gone to war for the sole reason of trying to bring democracy to the region.

However, the current situation provides an opportunity. Besides, we don’t have an option except pushing for democracy.

I agree that this is not the first “experiment” but it is bigger than the previous ones and potentially more pervasive. Previoulsy, the best local governments were sponsored by the Brits, but they were not as ambitious and didn’t survive the Arab socialists and the Baathists.

Too bad. Peaceful evolution was highjacked by nationalist and socialist bad guys who were hailed as heroes by their people - at least at first.

The situation in the Middle East broadly speaking sucks and has ever since the the 1920s. It is not like we upset some kind of great system. In fact, the worse case outcome is a return to the pre - 2003 trajectory.

Posted by: Jack at March 26, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #136018

Woody

We went to war for a variety of reasons. The proximate cause was our belief that Saddam was building WMD. The intelligence turned out to be flawed. We would not have gone to war for the sole reason of trying to bring democracy to the region.

However, the current situation provides an opportunity. Besides, we don’t have an option except pushing for democracy.

I agree that this is not the first “experiment” but it is bigger than the previous ones and potentially more pervasive. Previoulsy, the best local governments were sponsored by the Brits, but they were not as ambitious and didn’t survive the Arab socialists and the Baathists.

Too bad. Peaceful evolution was highjacked by nationalist and socialist bad guys who were hailed as heroes by their people - at least at first.

The situation in the Middle East broadly speaking sucks and has ever since the the 1920s. It is not like we upset some kind of great system. In fact, the worse case outcome is a return to the pre- 2003 trajectory.

Posted by: Jack at March 26, 2006 10:55 PM
Comment #136023

the rats in washington will someday sell us out to bin laden for beheadings. with the 12 to 20 million inside this nation from places like mexico who love bin laden how long before the mass murder starts here?

Posted by: Fred Dawes at March 27, 2006 12:33 AM
Comment #136025

Bryan,
Yes, you did miss a class in school. Diplomacy works because “We the People” can back up Our Word as a Nation and a Society if need be can “We” not? And although War should be a last resort, the fact of the matter is that America is going to have to be The World’s Cops or allow the UN to form one in order to take out those few Citizens who realy do believe that they are above The Law of Man & Nature. And yes, the Founding Fathers idea of finding a Politically Unalienable Correct way to write The Law does allow “We the People” to do our very best to meet the requirements of the Intent of the Law given present day conditions.

Phx8,
Why some men feel the need to dominate others through fear instead of knowledge goes above my pay grade; however, if the MSM really wants to help President Bush than they would be willing to take on the Issue of why America’s and Humanity’s Civilization of Laws seem to be oppressing Humans and their knowledge by keeping them in poverty while the Social Elite retain their Power of the Ages.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 27, 2006 12:45 AM
Comment #136048

David,

I guess we would have to first agree to what is “ignorance”. But, I don’t think you are referencing acts made from ignorance. Saddam seems to have been driven by ego, Bush seems to be driven by ideology. In both cases, they “knew” what they were doing. It’s just that the judgements they made were poor.
Saddam didn’t really need to know much about outside of Iraq to rule and control it. Knowing more about Bush wouldn’t likely have stopped his being invaded.
Bush really didn’t need to know much about Iraq n order to invade it. Knowing more wouldn’t likely have stopped him from invading.

Posted by: Dave at March 27, 2006 8:54 AM
Comment #136054

Dave,
The argument is not what You and/or I define as Ignorance, but where is the line between your unalienable Right to be Ignorant and Stupidity begins. However, our political system will not allow us to say exactly where that Line in the Sand. That being said, I have the following why to demonstrate how one can exaime the Whole of the Question because after all it is what “We the People” know to be Right and can Prove that matters to Our Way of Life.

Would a Logical and Reasonable Human ever put up $10,000.00 to win a $20.00 bet? Most likely not and be found Right by Others. However, why is it that only after a few drinks we will risk that same $10,000.00 dollars to save a $20.00 cab fare?

Now, although we can not say exactly where those lines exist the line between an Individual’s unalienable Right to be Ignorant and the start of Stupidity has been crossed. Certainly all Logic and Reason has left the argument between what is Right & Wrong in drinking and driving has it not?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 27, 2006 9:30 AM
Comment #136056
Dave, The argument is not what You and/or I define as Ignorance, but where is the line between your unalienable Right to be Ignorant and Stupidity begins…Certainly all Logic and Reason has left the argument between what is Right & Wrong in drinking and driving has it not?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 27, 2006 09:30 AM


Henry,

I think you already posted the obvious answer; The line is apssed when other people pay the price. In one instance, that happened on 3/20/03.
As for your question: One case is Cost/Benefit, the other case is Risk/Benefit. Remember that drinking and driving was not always socially unacceptable.

Posted by: Dave at March 27, 2006 9:50 AM
Comment #136125

Brian S.,

You have it wrong and you are missing the point! WE did not challenge the USSR, THEY CHALLENGED US! We were allies in WWII. In WWII, we came to the aid of France and Britain. That is different. After WWII, our stance with respect to the USSR changed when they used the peace to grab eastern Europe. We stood in their way again in Vietnam, Korea etc., because they were attempting to grow their ideaology like an empire. Now we are behaving like the empire and the world views us accordingly. We no longer have the moral high ground as we did in the cold-war. That is the point.

No-one is saying we shouldn’t stand up for what is right. But, we MUST do it the right way. When we manipulate, ignore and undermine law, we make enemies and convince others to believe those who would wish us evil. We thus increase the number and strength of our enemies.

No matter how RIGHT we may be, if we don’t go about it the RIGHT way, we lose. We shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s the problem. A good example of this is the way the evangelising christian right is going about things. Prosletising doesn’t work on its face. The only way to convince anybody is by example. The evangelicals claim to be about fostering christianity but in reality they sew the seeds of hatred and intolerance everywhere they go because they have not figured this out yet. For that reason, when we, on one hand ask others to support democracy, peace, rule of law…and the other hand we ignore, undermine and manipulate our own law and international law…WE FAIL.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 27, 2006 3:22 PM
Comment #136136

The problem is that Bush and many neocons confuse democracy with having a free society that respects civil liberties. It’s possible to have a monarchy with guaranteed liberties (perhaps like Britain a few centuries ago), and you can have elections and still a totalitarian state. If the people want intolerance and sharia law, that’s what the democracy will get.

The republican theory is that you can use military force to bomb and invade a country, then institute a lasting free government the people will accept, from the top down. Sadly, this (along with many other neocon tenets) have proven to be a complete failure.

Posted by: john at March 27, 2006 4:03 PM
Comment #136142

John,

Yup. You got the nail on the head. I find it completely laughable that the neo-cons actually think they FORCE our form of democracy on people. As though we are somehow so universally right that all the world should live like us. They don’t want to! What they want is to live in their own contexts without having others forcing outside contexts on them. Even a free democracy can be a tyranny if it is not freely chosen by those it purports to represent. Why should the Shi’ites and Sunnis want to live in any kind of consensus? They each would clearly prefer to fight each other for all the marbles than share. …Sadly, no amount of prosletizing democracy is going to stop them. Military force will only SHOW them what they need to do.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 27, 2006 4:11 PM
Comment #136226

Dave,
See the question is the problem. One side believe entirely in the Cost/Benefit side while the other believes whole heartedly in the Risk/Benefit side. However, the problem is that we have always known that Drinking and Driving is something that can not be justified by using Logic and Reason. And although 30 years ago it was seen by some to not cost very much or placed the general population at risk, explain that to the thousands of families that lost a loved oned.

It’s just to bad that America does not have a political party that will look at the Benefit first and than weigh the difference between the Cost vs. Risk. Like a gentleman told me once over Nuclear Energy, the cost factor over 20 years makes it the lowest way to produce electricity; however, when asked about the Risk Factor and the Cost to the Land he had no answer. Using that kind of Logic and Reason, we could cut down all the Trees in the World over the next 20 years for our energy needs, yet I bet you that the same person would call that wrong would they not?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 27, 2006 10:08 PM
Comment #136383

Woody, you also left out Turkey; which has been a representative democracy since the Ottoman Empire was destroyed after World War I. In my opinion, Turkey is the best example of a Democratic government in the Middle East that includes most Muslims.

Check our what the CIA says about TurkeyCheck our what the CIA says about Turkey

Posted by: Warren P at March 28, 2006 2:10 PM
Comment #136398

Henry,

I have no idea what you’re trying to say. Risk is a subset of cost. It can be estimated, evaluated, mitigated, and is subject to CBA, but is not really predictible on a case by case basis. E.g. A risk is assigned to “Do I drive drunk today?” A cost is assigned to “There are 30,000(?) accidents related to impaired driving each year”

Posted by: Dave at March 28, 2006 2:38 PM
Comment #136413

Dave,
“Drive drunk today” and prove your argument does not have “Common Sense.” In fact, one might say that you are willfully breaking the Law even though you have not become part of the stat. However, Society seeing that 30,000 accidents is caused by such action on the Individual has detremined that the Whole of Society will Benefit if the Cost of getting caught goes up. Therefore, instead of charging you for just driven drunk today can we charge you for all the times that you have drove drunk if you get caught.

The way I see it is that Society wants the Benefit of not having you drive drunk today or any other day. As such, the only tool Society has to keep you honest is to make the Cost outweigh any Logical and Reasonable Risk that you would be willing to take just to drive drunk. In fact, if a fine of all but 1% of a corporation’s yearly profit could be fined for every Illegal Alien they employeed than I do believe the Cost would out weigh any advantage or reason given by a CEO to hire the first Illegal Alien thus shutting down the logical reason that many come to this country to begin with.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 28, 2006 3:31 PM
Comment #136435
Since when was it America’s job to spread democracy around the world? Was I not paying attention at the beginning of the school year when everyone was handed their assignments?

Come on ‘bryan’, you have got to be kidding. Are you so liberal that you don’t see the benefits of even a bad democracy. Yes it is America’s job to protect democracy and freedom around the world or else the slimy little dictators and self purported world leaders (Osama) will come looking for us in our country…remember 9/11. Those that would resist democracy hate free trade, globalism, democracy, and freedom, and, even the people who support these things, so open your eyes to the fact that even bad or contextual democracies are better than the current forms of disctorships, with some semblance of freedom people will always desire more and that is what leads to revolution.

Posted by: Prentiss at March 28, 2006 5:04 PM
Comment #136454

You guys really give democrats and americans a bad name. Have you ever thought about whether or not any of these people WANT your involvement in their affairs? I am not condoning in any way what Saddam did, nor any other tyrant/despot. It just seems to me that it is VERY arrogant (can’t imagine WHY the rest of the world thinks americans are arrogant) of ANYONE to “assume” that another needs to be “educated” that a republic democracy (there are OTHER forms of democracy by the way) is the best/only way of government. NO system of government is perfect, but what we need to do is educate people PERIOD. With knowledge, comes empowerment.

Posted by: John Perrott at March 28, 2006 5:51 PM
Comment #136455

Prentiss,

It is not a successful strategy, or even a possible one, to spread democracy by IMPOSING it from an outside source. It has NEVER worked.

As for the US spreading democracy,
Consider:
Noriega,
Osama bin Laden,
Sadaam Hussein,
Pinochet,
Ferdinand Marcos,
The sandinistas (briefly, before they turned toward communism),
The Bucarelli agreement and Ogbregon in Mexico,

…is just a short list of the dictators and undemocratic pressures our country has pushed for got.

I don’t hate my country. I just realize we can do a better job. Those who blindly and ignorantly wish to continue in the same courses of action are the ones who must surely hate America, for what they support is nothing less than the ultimate undermining of everything this country was founded on.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 28, 2006 5:56 PM
Comment #136535

All our politicians are frighteningly ignorant and dont want to admit it. The range of expertise needed to deal with wide spread legislation and world problems is beyond most. Hip shooting and deciet are the order of the day.

Posted by: Reporting for Doody at March 28, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #136798

Reporting for Doody,
It is not Ignorance that poloiticians fear for they exploit the Stupidty of their followers in order to keep Power; however, the Enlightment of the Masses on what “We as a Society” can Prove to be Right & True regardless of Race, Color, or Creed in the Intent of the Law of the Land according to The Law of Nature and the Natural Course of Human Events to achieve a certain goal Has/Is/Should/ and Will be protected hopefully by The Courts of the Land and that is what some Civil, Political, And Religious Leaders fear because they Believe that they would not be able to control The Masses under The Law.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 30, 2006 6:56 AM
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