Democracy in the Middle East

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Remember when President Bush said that perhaps our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq would ignite a democratic movement in the Middle East? I almost forgot about it, but for a mention on the radio.

The worldwide democratic movement traces its roots back to Ancient Greece. Since that time, several forms of government have been tried and have experienced success in one form or another. Our Founding Fathers did extensive research into the topics and used the best of all forms of government for our system, and pit the worst elements of each against each other.

Certainly, since the Revolutionary War in 1776 and the subsequent adoption of the Constitution of the United States, we have been a sort of model for the entire world. Other countries have had a significant influence on democratic, or rather, people-formed governments, such as the English parliamentary system adopted almost universally by former colonies. France, Germany, and other European countries, and Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, and even, in times past, and somewhat today, China, have demonstrated that no people or culture is better off under a tyrannical dictatorship, and that even “backwards” cultures can learn how to govern themselves. Despite the plague of communism that has swept over the world, today it is all but banished from the world, with former soviet states such as Vietnam and Russia adopting more democratic reforms.

If you remember the mood of the country after 9/11, there was a deep sentiment that “never again” would we allow ourselves to become complacent in a dangerous world. Even tinpot dictators who we used to ignore were potential threats to our security. President Bush and his team did a remarkable job of nailing the real threat on the head, terrorism, in particular, radical Islam, all the while trying to show his own country and the world that Islam proper need not be considered a threat.

In an environment where several influential people were asking for blood, when even a nuclear attack on Mecca was proposed, and when people thought that the Islamic countries could never be civilized and were incompatible with our modern world, President Bush proposed doing something that had never before been done successfully: modernizing the mode of government in these countries.

In Iraq, the goal was two-fold. One, neutralize Saddam Hussein. Two, install a sustainable democratic republic that was capable of not only providing security for the people of Iraq, but unifying the different cultures and preventing any future acts of aggression against her neighbors. To this, we are so far successful. Of course, as far as Middle Eastern countries go, Iraqis were fairly secular and modern to begin with, and Saddam’s socialist state meant that the people already relied heavily on the central government despite their tribal tendencies.

In Afghanistan, progress has been much less visible. The current government doesn’t seem to be capable to managing the country. To be fair, however, there has never been a successful centralized government in that region since Alexander the Great conquered the people. But America has shown a tenacity that is evidence to the people in Afghanistan and across the world that we will not abandon that country until it is fully civilized.

All across North Africa and the Middle East, there are demonstrations and uprisings. In some cases, the people are taking up arms against their government. What gives them the confidence that they can shake their fists in the air in the face of despotic regimes? Why, it is America’s and the world’s resolve to support any democratic sentiments in that part of the world. They know that our foreign policy, if not formally but informally, is to stabilize the Middle East until we no longer fear whatever terrorist elements can organize themselves.

Barack Obama’s decision to take military action against Libya is evidence of our new foreign policy as a nation. He is following President Bush’s roadmap, despite grumblings within his own rank. Of course, he is doing everything he can to follow the other leaders of the free world, and from what it appears, not even appealing to congress for direct permission. However, we live in a world now where American and Western European interests are free to meddle in foreign national affairs with military force, and where the end game is not just stabilizing our economic interests but establishing pacific governments where despotic regimes now reign.

One worry, a worry that we as post-9/11 Americans will always have, is what will happen if a government sympathetic to terrorism is installed by election.We have already seen this in the Palestine, and we have, for the most part, done a reasonably good job at containing popular terrorist movements. What will happen, however, if not only Egypt but Libya and other countries embrace terrorism as a government policy?

Perhaps we’ll leave that problem for our children to solve. Perhaps our new policy is to keep throwing their governments away until we find one we like. Perhaps we know how to work within a government that is sympathetic to terrorism from our experience with Iraq and Afghanistan. Or perhaps we are making a colossal mistake as we did in Iran.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer, and I don’t think anyone can. We know, for a fact, that whatever we used to do didn’t work as well as we expected, so now we are trying something new.

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