Here is a decent UPI article capturing the essential themes of a program I participated in on Monday at the Hudson Institute titled “Is Democracy Good for the Middle East?” (audio version available here/MP3 download)
I said a number of things which can be seen on C-Span’s coverage of the program, and which has been running this week — but essentially, in my view it is important to remember that democracy promotion needs to be organic and come from within a country.
Also democracies are not ballotocracies, as Richard Haass calls them. Civil institutions, courts, the media, and other elements of civil society, the rights of minorities are as important if not more important than popular voting and should not be minimized or detached from political choice.
The word “democracy” is interpreted by many in the Middle East to be a trojan horse for “regime change.” I think it’s important to either modify our language or to reconstruct what genuine democracy means — which must build off the aspirations of those in the Middle East for self-determination and justice.
(Blogger Steven Clemons poses question to 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Muhammad Yunus who stated “democracy cannot be achieved at gun point”, 19 Nov 2006, photo credit: Jennifer Willis)
Lastly, as I said in this meeting, the first thing I said actually, our obsession with democracy in America will not undo or fix our real problems in the Middle East — which are anti-Americanism, anti-Israel sentiment, and terrorism.
Terror masters exploit unmanaged, untended, ulcerous grievances to fuel popular support for their causes — and America and Europe seriously undermine their mutual interests in the Middle East and fail to squelch the strong currents fueling terrorism by not “stealing the audience” from terrorists and working harder to resolve serious grievances.
And I did say that “democracy at gunpoint turbo-charges grievances in the Middle East.”
Here’s a bit more:
‘The obsession with “democratization at gunpoint” is turbo-charging grievances in the region,’ and the grievances must be addressed, said Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation. Long-term success will take decades, he contends, but is not an impossible feat.
‘Of course democratization can take hold. But it will need to be organic, not implemented,’ Clemons said.
Also necessary will be extensive framework in the form of foreign investments, and a change in language that reflects a transcending of cultural barriers. Western ideas fall on deaf ears because they don’t correlate with regional beliefs such as self-determination, according to Clemons, who also proposes an idea similar to the Alaska Permanent fund for Iraq as an economic incentive.
‘We have not set up an environment for opportunities to take hold,’ said Clemons.
— Steve Clemons