the democracy fallacy
Here’s a line of reasoning I simply can’t follow:
The Islamic world is nothing like the Western world. We have few, if any, of the same values and virtually no historical commonality save our shared, centuries-old conflict with one another. The Islamic world, by and large, has none of the laws or customs necessary to develop an organic democratic society the way Western nations have. Therefore, the only way to achieve peace with the Islamic world is for them to adopt our notions of plurality, democracy, and humanism. They won’t do this on their own because of their lack of shared values, and so it follows that we must intervene on their behalf to impose these values, and fashion democracies for them in our image.
This is the neoconservative philosophy, at least in regards to the middle east, in a proverbial nutshell. One would think the fallacy here too apparent, and yet it has shaped much of our foreign policy in regards to the region for the past three decades. The very fact that the Islamic world does not have a similar body of customs and laws, or a similar canon of shared values should disqualify it even as a potential for imposed democracy. And if this is the only means by which we can ever achieve peace with the region, then it would follow that peace with the region is simply not possible since the region is inhospitable to such imposition.
In other words, the very premise for invading countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan in order to democratize them and thereby impose peace through war, is a false premise.
Of course, bound part and parcel to this philosophy is the notion that two democracies will never war against one another. That democracies did in fact make war on one another during World War II seems to go unnoticed. That democratically elected Hamas and democratic Israel are in a perpetual conflict also seems to go ignored, or white-washed with the mantra of terrorism.
In any case, I wonder constantly at the acrobatics involved in composing this sort of rhetoric. If only the Muslim world would be more like us then we could all live in peace. They’re nothing like us and never will be, so we have to foist it upon them. Never mind the war this causes, because in the long run, contra to all historical evidence, the defeated and subdued peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan will shed their thousands of years of historical conditioning in favor of our happy, Western traditions, brought to them with all the compassion shock and awe can muster.
In another attempt at cynicism, let me postulate that we can do more to Westernize the Middle East with McDonald’s and television sitcoms than we’ll ever achieve through democracy promotion and war. Whether that’s the part of our culture we ought to be exporting is another question entirely, but it certainly beats killing people. Better fat and lazy than dead.