Democracy at Gunpoint Turbo-Charges Grievances in Middle East


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.
clemons yunus question 2 resize.jpg
(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.

More later.
— Steve Clemons


11 comments on “Democracy at Gunpoint Turbo-Charges Grievances in Middle East

  1. David Noziglia says:

    You seem to be confused as to what Democracy is.
    It is clear that, to Bush and his people, Democracy is simply everyone else doing what they are told by God’s represetative on earth. Namely, BushCo.
    Same goes for other quaint ideas like law, constitutionalism, alliances, and bipartisanship.
    Once we understand that, much of their actions and agenda are easy to understand.
    If we then don’t accept their policies, and see them as the first steps to fascism, why, then, it must be because we’re traitors who want the terrorists to kill Americans.
    Isn’t that clear?


  2. Den Valdron says:

    Oh hell, Steambomb. Let’s be honest. There was no intention and no effort to export Democracy. Democracy brought the risk that someone we might not like could get elected, Democracy is unpredictable.
    Indeed, American moves were strongly anti-democratic. Garner was dumped because he wanted to hold elections. Bremer actually turfed out the results of municipal elections, dismissing elected officials and putting his own people in place. Bremer and the US announced a viceroyalty of open ended nature going for years, no Democracy there. In response to resistance, Bremer went through various puppet ‘advisory councils’ while keeping power to himself.
    The US strongly resisted Democracy with everything it had, shutting down newspapers, arresting or attempting to arrest popular leaders, funding and supporting their own chosen like Allawi.
    In the end, elections were held, the US kicking and screaming all the way because Sistani insisted. And even then, the US did everything it could to corrupt those elections.
    To the extent that there was any sort of effort to remake Iraqi society, it was for the purpose of looting… no controls on foreign ownership, sale off of state owned industries at fire sale prices, flat tax rates, zero import tariffs. Nothing to do with Democracy, a lot to do with a bunch of free market ideological douchebags wanting to transform a prostrate country into their libertarian experiment. And of course, it had a lot to do with American Capital and American investment, who were poised to buy up the assets of the country, lock stock and barrel, at fire sale prices, and rent it back to the Iraqi’s at penthouse rates. So basically, it was all just economic rape, paid for by the taxpayer, to be inflicted on the Iraqi’s without their consent. And that, was intended to ultimately include the oil… the biggest, most valuable, most strategic asset that Iraq had.
    This wasn’t exporting ‘Democracy’ this was exporting Feudalism, Slavery and Sharecropping.
    Good gosh. The Iraqi’s took a look and decided it wasn’t for them.
    What were they thinking?


  3. steambomb says:

    Iraq is a supreme example of the fact that democracy cannot be “exported”. It has to start from within and can only be taken down from within. Watch out for the latter. For as long as we have a bunch of dolts in think tanks and public office that believe democracy can be “exported” we are in danger of losing our own democracy at home.


  4. Pissed Off American says:

    “Democracies do not fight among themselves”?
    Someone got the crack pipe out a bit early, I see.
    Posted by Den Valdron
    I rarely disagree with Den’s posting, but in this case he has obviously mis-diagnosed a contributor that is suffering from the apparent effects of LSD.


  5. Den Valdron says:

    “Democracies do not fight among themselves”?
    Someone got the crack pipe out a bit early, I see.


  6. Den Valdron says:

    Yeah, the Alaska Permanent Fund model for Iraq is such a good idea. After all, Alaska is an American state of only half a million people or so, historically intensively subsidized by the Federal Government, and with every possible advantage.
    Iraq is a country of 24 million people, or approximately 50 times the population of Alaska, not intensively subsidized by the United States.
    But yeah, what could go wrong….


  7. Abe Bird says:

    Democracy is the only way to peace and calm in the ME. Democracies do not fight among themselves and solves problems through talks and agreements.
    I don’t put my trust in any other way of solution. Each one will be conditionally to the will and strategy of the non-democracies.
    Democracy is not just a method of election nor just freedom in economy as Marky puts it, but a way and nature of governing and controlling the body of state and the personal and collective behave within the society’s structure.
    Add to that basic fact that most of the Palestinian Arabs don’t see Israel as a legitimate state and acting to turn the Land of Israel to be “Palestine” as “a country of its natives”, which means the continuing of the war until achieving their goal.


  8. Robert Morrow says:

    The Alaska Permanent Fund model for Iraq. That is the best idea I have heard in a long time. It gives them all a stake in the country. Everybody gets some dough, suddenly the stakes are lower because it is not winner take all. That is a very good idea.


  9. Marky says:

    The neocons define “democracy” in two ways.
    First, a country is democratic if it has elections—period. The elections must have the appearance of being fair, but the thought that democracy requires public institutions, protection of minorities and having the rule of law is not only unimportant, it is antithetical to the second part.
    The second part of the “democracy” is defined as economic freedom, which means the freedom of foreign companies to loot the wealth of the new “democracy”. A compliant government, one which is willing to overlook any legal niceties in order to help the foreign overlords get their pay, is essential. A strong, popularly supported government is NOT what is wanted in this kind of “democracy”.
    These points are transparently obvious to the local observers in the Middle East, which is why there is no support for the so-called “democratization” program of the neocons.
    Rape and pillage by any other name still will not smell like a rose.


  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Sean — I understand your sentiment. Just fyi though, the group was very diverse (in my view). Here are the pics from the dinner that capture that diversity:
    Steve Clemons


  11. sean says:

    Caption contest: “AARP representatives enjoy trappings of 19th century splendor at banquet.” Seriously, while I appreciate the time taken to produce this blog — it gives the rest of us a window into how we are actually governed — it’s depressing sometimes just how different the world is that our overlords inhabit.


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