Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Fundamental Question

A few days ago over at Treasure of Baghdad, I wrote the following comment:
There are many who argue that Arabs, who have relied for centuries on tribal values and have been dominated by authoritarian dictators, cannot participate in democracy because it is simply too foreign to them. What they're saying is that although both the Japanese and the Germans, once given the chance, embraced representative, democratic governance, the Arabs are different. Arabs only listen to their sheikhs and their dictators.

What do you think?

George Bush has said that all people, if given the chance, will embrace representantive democracy. What do you think?

Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?
There were several responses from the regular commenters to what Original Jeff called the "fundamental question."

Nadia replied:
"George Bush has said that all people, if given the chance, will embrace representantive democracy. What do you think?"

Do fish swim in water? Is there rice in China? Does a cow have four legs?

"Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?"

Under the same conditions Arabs accept personal responsibilities as any other people on this earth.

In fact such a question is very bizarre it’s either an indication of extreme racist views of Arabs or having lived in extreme isolation from the rest of the world for way to long.
EdoRiver wrote:
I never thought the Iraqi or any people that I know of, don't want representative democracy. So Jeffrey's questions seems wierd. But the question is whether the people who lose the elections will be treated fairly and will they abide by the results. We could guess that Sunni would not win an election for the forseeable future. If I were a Sunni politician, this would be a frustrating time.
EdoRiver points out one of the ultimate tests of a functioning democracy. It's not what the winners do; it's what the losers in the elections decide to do. If they start planning how to win more votes in the next election, then they live in a real democracy. But if they start handing out AK-47s to their "campaign workers," then they do not live in a democracy.

Bruno served up a big, juicy SNARKBURGER:
[Jeffrey] “Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?”

No, clearly Arabs have ‘democracy repelling’ antibodies that genetically prevent them from accepting the glorious ‘democracy’ you have ‘invented’. But more pressing to my mind is the question of: whether Americans can accept the personal responsibility that goes along with eating a Big Mac?
Baghdad Treasure asserted:
Arabs will never change this attitude [listening only to sheikhs and dictators] and I believe that democracy will never be successful in the ME and the whole Arab world. It has to do with traditions. Arab sheikhs and tribes established the first Arab territories. So it is not easy to change this.
And later Bruno added another comment on the issue:
Firstly, I don’t see what is so utterly glorious about democracy anyway. Everybody makes out that it is the answer to the world’s problems, but in reality mostly the same old people end up ruling anyway. I have seen for myself in my own country how parties elected on a particular stance turn 180 degrees and do the exact opposite, and nothing at all can be done about it by the people who voted for them on that issue. The barriers of entry into a typical democratic system as a viable contender mean that usually the rich are the ones that can campaign with success … and they would be the stakeholders in an alternative system anyway.

Having said all this, I don’t believe that Arabs are incompatible with democratic ideas at all. I mean, if the Lebanese and the Palestinians can grasp the concept then what is so difficult for the rest of the ME? Simply, a lot of these regimes are backed by our favourite rogue superpower, which has an excellent relationship with their dictators, and has no interest in jeopardizing that relationship in favour of the lottery of a democratic government. Only if the dictator is ill disposed to the said rogue superpower, is ‘regime change’ of the utmost importance.

What do YOU think?


UPDATE: Responding to comments about the latest Arab League summit, Iraq Pundit remarks:
Plenty of Arabs view Iraqis as traitors because we choose democracy over Saddam's thugocracy. And no, none of us is pleased with the current situation in our country. If our Arab neighbours want to inflict their "influence" on us and put us under an Arab nationalist dictator, dream on. We Iraqis have made it clear that we prefer democracy. It may take time, but Iraq will thrive again.
It looks like Iraq Pundit believes that at least some Arabs are capable of living in a democracy.


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