Monday, May 23, 2011

Democracy’s Great Flaw: A Warning about the Arab Spring

As an American I have a deep dedication to the idea that the people have a God given right to freedom and to choose their leaders. The only type of government that ensures this is democracy in some form. One example is a democratic republic established by a constitution ratified by the people which clearly defines the limits of power of the government. We, Americans, have had an example of such a government here that has worked successfully for over 200 years (and we are proud of it).

That said, there is a serious flaw or danger, that comes in this form of government and we have seen several examples of this flaw being exploited in recent history. The flaw is simple. A very smart and patient small group, willing to use lies and treachery, can win the support of enough of the people to legitimately gain power and then, once securely in power they can slowly use that power to change the government, prevent their own ousting through the ballot and take away the freedoms the people thought were secure.

The best example of this was Germany in the 1920’s. Hitler and the Nazi Party very effectively won over enough support to gain power legally. Once in power they quickly made it impossible for any other party to challenge them and moved to transform the German Republic into a dictatorship.

I mention this because that is exactly what I believe may be happening as a result of the Arab Spring. For example, in Egypt, when the people first started mass demonstrations in the streets, the Muslim Brotherhood was quick to say they supported the people but had no intention of participating in the government. This resulted in many people, including the military leadership, letting down their guard. As soon as Mubarak was safely removed from power the Muslim Brotherhood had a change of heart. Today many analysts are predicting they will be the majority (and controlling) power after the new elections.

I believe something similar is very likely happen in Libya and Yemen once they achieve new governments.

The maddening thing about it is that there is very little we can do about it. If people are free to choose their government, they are free to make mistakes. If they choose to believe the lies, well, they have that right. All you can do is try to keep getting the truth to them and hope for the best.

The bad news is that Middle Eastern culture is very tribal in nature and subject to religious influences. That makes a secular democratic government harder to establish. The good news is that no matter who gains power in free elections, the people will have at least a brief taste of freedom and choice. Once they experience that, they may not like seeing it taken away again –even under the color of religion.

Whatever happens, it is going to be a roller coaster ride for both the people in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Live Long and Prosper.....

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