Suppose you have two societies A and B which, let us assume, are culturally similar. A is a dictatorship. It is not some benign fairy tale dictatorship. Like a lot of real world dictatorships, it restricts a number of civil liberties. It is not that great on due process, and certainly, voting is an extremely restricted franchise, but it is secular. There is strict separation between church and state. People may not be free to protest or criticise the government. The economy is not particularly spectacular and there is a fair bit of corruption. But, people can pray to whomever they want or no one at all. No particular religion is touted as the one true faith in public schools. And the government, as far as it can, refrains from making divisive claims about religion. B is a constitutional democracy, but it is a theocratic one. Rather than protecting liberty of conscience, the constitution protects the practice of one particular religious tradition. The laws reflect this and ban conversion from that religion. In fact, the constitution expressly spells out a mandate to institute and enforce religious laws. If homosexual acts are condemned in the religion, the country makes such acts illegal. Of course, since it is a constitutional democracy, there is less in the way of due process violations. There are fewer arbitrary arrests and detentions. The economy isn’t run any better or worse than in A. While people are generally freer to protest and gather, the majority does support these theocratic rules and the constitution does not invalidate blasphemy laws. It is illegal to speak against the official state religion.
A question for everyone, but especially for those who think of themselves as left of centre:
1) Which is better, or alternatively, which is the lesser of two evils?
3) Do you think the answer is obvious?
4a) If you think A is better than B, would you support a military coup if it is likely to turn a B into an A?
4b) If you think B is better than A, would you support a popular uprising if it would turn A into B?
5) If the answer to 4) is no, why not? If the answer to 4) is yes, but your reasoning does not repeat anything that you’ve already mentioned in the previous questions, why?
The reason why I address this to those left of centre is that Obama supported the Arab spring and the left to my knowledge, just went along with it*.Let me put it this way: I think that A is not only better than B, but way better than B. Freedom from the imposition of religious rules by the state is so important that removing such religious imposition should be extremely heavily weighted. But this means that for the Arab Spring is a betrayal of liberal principles since it was fairly obvious from the get go that the likely result of the revolution would be theocratic democracies. If Malaysia is the best model for Constitutional Islamic Democracy, then moving to that supposedly moderate version from Baathist dictatorship is already a big mistake. When the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be the likely winner, I may want to ask: What the hell were you thinking?
*The Republicans of course just opposed it out of reflexive opposition to Obama and the Democrats so they’ve also got my everlasting scorn. If in power, they would have done the same or even worse.