Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Unfettered Democracy Good?

Jefrey Goldberg notices that the American neo-cons and the Israelis have split over what they wish for Egypt. The neo-cons want democracy now, period. The Israelis are fine with Egyptian democracy assuming it can be trusted - but what if it can't? (Not that there's anything Israel can do about it anyway). Jeffrey also notes that this break sort of doesn't fit the narrative about how the neo-cons are the Israelis, or their stooges in America, or whatever it is people like Juan Cole like to say.

May I remind everyone that when Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, at some considerable price, we thought we were making peace with the Egyptians? Eventually it turned out we hadn't, we'd merely made a very cold peace with the ruling Egyptian clique, but that wasn't our choice, nor our doing, nor anything we could influence one way or the other.

In the meantime there have been various experiments in Arab democracy. The one in Algeria ended extremely disastrously. The one in Iraq is still underway, and we should all hope for the best but without holding our breath. The one in Lebanon doesn't seem to have worked that well. Then there's Palestine, where in 2006 the Americans forced Israel and the PA to accept Hamas as a legitimate party in elections. That didn't work out so well either, did it.

After WW2 the Americans made sure the Nazis couldn't run in West German elections, and they still can't till this very day. If I'm not mistaken, in the US itself the communists were not allowed to run. Sometimes unfettered elections are not the best way to achieve freedom or even democracy.

Apropos what the Israelis think, here's Netanyahu yesterday. Spoken by a different sort of man, many would hail such talk as nuanced and sophisticated.


Silke said...

news from Sandmonkey

(UPDATE: Arrested?) Cairo Exclusive: Interview with ‘Sandmonkey’

Silke said...

I confess that the logic of the second paragraph Goldberg quotes from Elliot Abrams eludes me. To me it reads like the question I kept being asked in school:

"what is the artist trying to tell us by this"

Of course dumb me is of the opinion that everybody who has a firm and claiming to heed reality opinion on what the future re Egypt will look like suffers from omphalocitis i.e. Pythia-Syndrome.

Soccer Dad said...

Shortly before Camp David, Commentary had an article by Joan Peters (author of From Time Immemorial) in which she wrote that based on her conversations with elites in Egypt there would be no peace anytime soon. And I think that underscores your point. Israel made peace with a very small (but important) segment of Egypt.

joseph said...

Dr. Lozowick,

Communists can, and do, run for office in the US. Gus Hall ran about 15 times for president, never garnering much support. Anyway, speaking of elections, when are the next Palestinian elections? As Bush said, democracy doesn't mean one and done elections.


Silke said...

for the Germanically and/or Google translate astute, here is what Uri Avnery tells Germans on our version of the "BBC".

and of course Netanyahu and Barak are all wrong ...

Empress Trudy said...

People are always more in favor of violent radicalism the further they live from it.

Anonymous said...

There is democracy and there is Democracy. And they are not the same thing. With a small "d", I mean the position with the most support gets to make the rules. With a capital "D", I mean the rules get made according to the principles that ALL humans are entitled to the same rights, and the government's function is to protect those rights equally, and to ensure the well-being of the governed.

An example: In the 1950's, I would say that the majority of people in the US supported racial segregation. In "democracy" we would still have segregation to this day. But in "Democracy", our Supreme Court (would they be called "Nazis" today?) determined segregation failed to provide Equal Protection according the 14th Amendment of our Constitution. I was a school child in the 1960's, and we received plenty of education teaching us not to reject integration, and to undo the racist attitudes we received from the general culture.

I would argue that "Democracy" compels a country to extend those principles to its engagements with foreign countries, as well.

"democracy" does not automatically mean there will be "Democracy". Something the neocons have never acknowledged. And "democracy" without "Democracy" ultimately leads to disasters. To wit, our American Civil War.


Juniper in the Desert said...

Democracy of any kind and izlam are totally incompatible. Izlam by its intrinsic nature is anti-people, anyway, constantly punishing and tormenting people. Any system which stops attacks on Israel is the only system that can be agreed by Israel, whatever that system is called.

Silke said...

in support especially of Empress Trudy's point read Richard Millett's report from another one of those amazing London get-togethers where nutter meets nutter.

just as a teaser:

Two Egyptian activists were eventually allowed to speak. Their cause wasn’t totally hijacked (no pun intended) and they didn’t mention Israel once. They just wanted to be free.

Sérgio said...

How can western "intellectuals" be so irresponsibly naive!?!? Did western education reach such astouding low levels? Good grief! All this second-hand pseudo-romantic notions of "freedom" taken totally out of context, without a dint of healthy skepticism. It´s disgusting.

Silke said...

no the west acts as he has done ever since it came into being i.e.

"in principle yes ..."

NormanF said...

Unfettered democracy can bring extremists to power.

Without a democratic culture, real pluralism and respect for minority rights, democracy is not possible.

Adolf Hitler was in many ways a democrat. There is no doubt his favorite device, the referendum, produced massive popular majorities in support of his regime and its policies. Dictatorships can be democratic - as long as you support the regime and its objectives.

So what is democracy? What the events in Egypt have revealed is not everyone is born to be a Jeffersonian democrat.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nycerbarb,
While I agree with your statement about democracy, please keep in mind that segregation was a largely southern practice, as my father (born in 1931) never encountered it during his formative years in the racially mixed city of Chester, Pa.

Anonymous said...

There was segregation by law in the south. I grew up in the suburbs of NYC in the 60's. We had "Gentlemen's Agreements" about the issue.

I am not qualified to speak about anywhere else.