April 15, 2003
Weisman at The
Art of Peace links to an article
from the University of Michigan News Service about a survey in the Western and
Muslim worlds of opinions on democracy and gender issues. The survey found similar
levels of admiration for democracy but a divergence on questions of homosexuality,
women's rights, abortion and divorce.
the reason those nations don't have a liberal democracy despite having the same
desire for it we do have to do with needing experience, or institutions built
up over time."
the responses to the survey show high regard for democracy in both the West and
the Islamic world, it would be reasonable to assume that democracy is understood
quite differently in societies that are democratic and societies that see democracy
as foreign. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of living in democratic countries
have experience with the regularity and tolerance that make civil society so...civil.
Inhabitants of Islamic countries (with a couple partial exceptions) only know
that democracies are prosperous and powerful leaders in the community of nations.
It is clear from the survey responses about gays, women and divorce that these
"admirers" of democracy fail to recognize the importance of equality under the
law and tolerance (of minorities) that are necessary underpinnings of any modern
survey does not make clear that different people have the same desire...just that
they hold the same word in high esteem.
The contrasting positions about tolerance and equality indicate that they desire
a society quite different from anything we'd recognize as a liberal democracy.
It is that different desire that explains the failure of the Islamic world to
import democracy. (That and the Muslim opposition to individualism and the secular
focuses on the lack of institutional infrastructure, but while civil institutions
are a necessary condition for a democratic society, they are not sufficient. Islamic
societies have evolved institutions that embody their own values. To transplant
democracy we must transplant democratic values...not just institutions.
values include; rule of law, respect for private property, personal responsibility
(meritocracy), equality and individual self-determination. When a society lacks
these essential values, elections and legislatures are merely a phony front. We
have seen too many examples of countries erecting the institutional forms
of democracy without the required cultural values. The false promise of "instant
democracy" has betrayed the hopes of people around the world. Much of the
tragedy of post-colonial Africa is, alas, instructive on this point.
have had some discussion of David's opinion that America should be planning
Iraq's democratic transformation. Democracy will be possible in Iraq when Iraqis
adopt the full panoply of democratic values.
can we transmit those values? We can show the relationship
between the admired qualities like wealth, power and prestige and
the values that lead to their realization. If a nation wishes to be wealthy, it
must fully use all the talent available. Excluding people from the work force
because of gender or clan reduces the talent pool and makes an economy uncompetitive.
If you wish to have the democratic good of a prosperous society, you must choose
to use the democratic means of an egalitarian meritocracy to get there. If you
desire the social stability of democratic societies, you must achieve it the same
way they do...by adopting tolerance, secularism and a respect for law. If you
envy the prestige of the Western democracies, you can earn it too...by embracing
pluralism, education, responsibility and individualism. Some of these values are
more consistent with Islam than others. The creation of a democratic Islam will
be a wrenching change. Some of these new values are very different from Arab values
(which are not identical to Muslim values).
it isn't enough to want something. You have to believe in it with your gut deep
down, you have to believe it's possible and natural, even necessary."
couldn't agree with him more.
can work to demonstrate the advantages of these values and we can try to impose
some degree of civil order in Iraq so there aren't too many obstacles, but while
education programs and policing can be planned, learning and choosing must be
done by the people not the planners. It is a messy process that will require great
patience and commitment.
many people this is a conundrum. Imposing our tolerance and egalitarianism onto
other cultures can seem both intolerant and elitist to a multi-culturalist.
cut the Gordian Knot we must discover a way to reconcile Islam with secularism,
individualism, empiricism, tolerance and egalitarianism...and oh yes...freedom.
Only then will Muslim countries be able to build the kinds of institutions that
make democratic societies possible. This is a gargantuan undertaking...but what
are our options?
will be a long war.
April 16, 2003
an extensive article in Foreign Policy by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris,
the authors of the survey say, "But
this sentiment needs to be complemented by deeper underlying attitudes such as
interpersonal trust and tolerance of unpopular groups—and these values must ultimately
be accepted by those who control the army and secret police." Saddam
no longer controls the army and secret police...one impediment removed.
on creating democracy in Iraq from Fareed
Zakaria...and the curse of oil wealth.