Sunday, September 10, 2006

Can radical democratization work?

The lynchpin of the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby seems to be the concept of forcing "failed nations" or "rogue states" to become "democratic", so-called radical democratization. That is what we are trying to do in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the noises being made about Iran. But, can this strategy work? I think not, at least not in a sustainable manner.

I am an ardent fan of democracy, but my belief is that an entire people -- not just a handful of "leaders" -- must really and deeply and passionately want democracy before it has even a hope of happening in a sustainable manner. And, that may be the problem in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and maybe Iran as well.

Of course, all of this discussion about radical democratization begs the question of the definition of democracy itself. After all, Iran does have elections, the Palestinian Authority had elections, and Lebanon had elections. All sorts of criticisms can be made concerning those elections, but criticisms can be made of elections here in the U.S. as well. My point is that these criticisms are valid and simply highlight the fact that merely being labeled a "democracy" or "democratic" does not imply a realization of all of the foreign policy benefits that Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby are ascribing to "democracy". We do in fact have democracy in Iraq, but it is far from a pretty site.

By all (reasonable) means, let us encourage the growth of democracy, especially in countries where governance is dysfunctional or a danger to local, regional, or world peace, but let us be sure to focus on reasonable processes for developing democracies and stop fooling ourselves into believing that we can impose democracy of our own design on any other people -- and have it stick for very long.

I suspect that Iraq may well continue to limp and stumble towards a palatable form of democracy, eventually, but it may not be a form of democracy that "we" would find attractive from our own foreign policy perspective. For example, what if Iraq decides to make peace and ally with Syria and Iran, where will that leave the U.S. (and Israel) for all of our effort?

By all means, let us "aid and abet" democracy, but let us make sure to shy away from trying to force it to happen in any place where it may not have happened naturally in due course. That is not to say that we must forego all force, but simply to stay away from imposing our will on another people.

I believe that democracy can and does happen naturally. That is not to say that it happens easily or with little effort and without great sacrifice, but rather is to say that the people make it happen when they feel ready to make it happen. That is the only recipe, indeed the requirement, for developing a sustainable democracy.

I fully expect that one day China will evolve into something much closer to what we call democracy. They have a long way to go, but they have already come a great distance already.

I also believe that capitalism is a key requirement for fostering the conditions in which democracy can be birthed and survive. It is only when many individuals feel that they have a sense of financial independence that they can have the luxury of reaching out and grabbing opportunities to form truly democratic institutions. That in fact is the process that is underway in China, as we speak.

And if we want Iran to evolve towards more of a democracy, encouraging capitalism and free trade are key tools to pushing that process along. Sanctions are the last thing we should be considering if we want Iran to move towards a more open and less-combative form of democracy. If anything, the U.S. should drop the bulk of its existing sanctions.

To answer the question: Can radical democratization work? My answer is No, at least not in a sustainable form.

-- Jack Krupansky


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home