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Old 02-15-2006, 01:52 AM   #1
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Is Democracy Always The Best Policy?

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Egypt’s parliament delays local elections; U.S. disapproves

The Associated Press
Feb. 14, 2006


CAIRO--The Egyptian parliament Tuesday postponed local elections for two years despite opposition from the United States and a leading fundamentalist group. A spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Saeed el-Katatni, said the law was approved by 348 of parliament’s 454 lawmakers. "This is a sad day for Egypt. The dictatorship of majority again tried to exploit their numbers to prevent the voice of the people," el-Katatni said. The Brotherhood made a strong showing in legislative elections last year, and some saw the new law as an effort to block the group’s ascendance.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration supports Egypt’s progress toward democracy but opposed Mubarak’s decision to put off local elections. The council terms were due to have expired Tuesday, requiring elections within 60 days. But that schedule would have brought a new vote on the heels of parliament elections late last year that saw surprise victories by the Muslim Brotherhood — Egypt’s most powerful fundamentalist group, which increased its representation in the assembly from 15 to 88 seats.

Mubarak, a top ally of the United States, has come under pressure from Washington to increase democracy in a country where he has held near autocratic rule for 29 years. But U.S. officials have expressed concern his government is backing off the drive for reform. After praising Mubarak’s decision to hold the first multi-candidate presidential elections in September, Washington sharply criticized the parliament voting in November and December, which saw violence by police and government supporters trying to prevent Brotherhood and other opposition voters from casting ballots.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif acknowledged that government interference had prevented even greater Brotherhood gains. "It (the Brotherhood) could have gone up to 40 (more seats)," he told [/i]Newsweek[/i] in an interview published Jan. 30. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party still holds a 311-seat majority in parliament.

"After the victories of the Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Palestine, the NDP is afraid of the pro-Islamist atmosphere," Brotherhood MP Essam Mukhtar said, referring to Mubarak’s party.
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U.S. and Israel Deny Plans to Drive Hamas From Power

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
The New York Times, Feb. 15 2006


WASHINGTON—American and Israeli officials warned again Tuesday that they would cut off aid and transfers of tax receipts to a Hamas-led Palestinian government if it did not renounce violence and recognize Israel. They said, however, that they had no plans to oust such a government. "The bottom line is that there is no U.S.-Israeli plan, project, plot, conspiracy to destabilize or undermine a future Palestinian government," said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman.

He spoke in response to an article in The New York Times on Tuesday in which American and Israeli officials and diplomats said they were discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government, with the intention of forcing new elections. Those officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said the discussions were going on at the highest levels of the State Department and the Israeli government.

The article said that if Hamas did not alter its policy, the two governments would seek to bring about the Palestinian Authority's isolation and collapse by cutting payments and controlling entry and exits into the Palestinian areas. They would also try to stop money transfers through pressure on other governments and on the currency used in the Palestinian areas, the Israeli shekel. This warning was conveyed two weeks ago by the US, Europe, the UN secretary general and Russia, and it was repeated Tuesday by Israel.

In Gaza, a Hamas spokesman, Mushir al-Masri, said any effort to bring down a freely elected Hamas government would be "a rejection of the democratic process, which the Americans are calling for day and night."
Are free elections such an unassailable good in their own right, that we must support them always and everywhere--even when they mean the election of fundamentalist/extremist regimes, or regimes profoundly opposed to the many other aspects of political culture we identify with democracy-- freedom of speech, due process of law, etc.? (...think of how fascism came to power in 1930s Europe for example...)

Can we rightfully claim to recognize and respect the outcomes of free elections, if we then turn around and apply financial and policing pressures which leave *freely elected* extremists absolutely no breathing room?

On the other hand, would it be at all possible for us to support electoral obstructions "in the name of stability" like Mubarak's without laying the groundwork for yet another era of oppressive, rage-stoking rule by the "trustworthy" autocrats?
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Old 02-15-2006, 02:07 AM   #2
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Nations have a right to pursue their national interests, that may include a foreign policy that promotes democracy over autocracy abroad but that does not mean that they must by definition give monetary support to terrorist regimes - even if they are elected.

The Hamas charter is a document that proscribes genocide and violent rejectionism, there is no obligation to support hamas in it's current iteration. Using financial aid as a carrot on a stick to moderate these governments is not the same as directly undermining and there is absolutely no obligation to give support when the government stands against your interests.
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Old 02-15-2006, 09:40 AM   #3
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we make a big mistake when we conflate democracy with an adoption of liberal Western values.
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Old 02-15-2006, 11:07 AM   #4
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Democracy in some countries can lead to Islamic theocracies and not liberal democratic countries. This is the case in any country that is predominately Muslim. Right now no Middle Eastern country is really democratic. They have elections in Iran but the liberals aren't allowed to participate. Unstable Iraq is secular but it could still go the way of the mullahs. Pakistan? I hate to think what would happen if they become democratic. It would put a Taliban-type government in because so many of the people are that type Muslim.
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Old 02-15-2006, 12:03 PM   #5
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The question is not "will democracy solve the problem?" but more "will democracy give society the best opportunity to solve the problem?"

If we conclude that the Palestinian election is an example of failure, we are using a far too narrow view.

A continuing democracy, even one that experiments and elects an Islamic theocracy, is a far better alternative to an established totalitarian regime that will not permit change.
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Old 02-15-2006, 12:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
A continuing democracy, even one that experiments and elects an Islamic theocracy, is a far better alternative to an established totalitarian regime that will not permit change.


i can agree with the silver lining-theory of the Hamas election -- that when you turn mullahs into mayors, demands for, say, a working sewer system suddenly appear far more pressing than demands to push Israel into the sea. still, for the time being, democracy is bound to bring mullahs and religious parties to power in Kabul and Baghdad and Egypt. free elections are going to give us more theocratic parties, and the west has to accept it.

when we depart from Afghanistan and Iraq, Iranian-backed Shias will be dominant in both countries. this particular -- and bellicose -- brand of theocratic influence will be spread across the Middle East for decades to come.

here we have it, a clash of civilizations, with Iran at the center, nuclear programs in the works -- a kind of "Cold Jihad."

the current state of affairs begs the question, then, if we all agree that democracy and western "values" are not the same thing, does the manner in which democracy was implemented in the country matter? can democracy be brought with bombs? are there things we can do to win the "hearts and minds"? perhaps the collapse of the Arab-Israeli peace process, the war on terror, and the bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq have all contributed to the idea that Islam is under siege -- and, thusly, more radical elements are going to be elected by Muslims who feel under siege. perhaps we would have benefited greatly from taking a little bit of time to understand a country like Iraq and planning for the aftermath instead of fabricating threats and a false sense of crisis -- democracy and freedom will not solve the Middle East's (often Western-induced) the problems of social disorder and government dysfuction.

also, are we to accept things like, say, the reversal of women's rights in many of these countries -- Iraq in particular -- where women are now held under lock and veil where 5 years ago they were doctors and scientists is "worth it" for democracy?

all hard questions. but, clearly, democracy is not the answer. it might be, at best, the beginning of a process that might lead to an answer.
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Old 02-15-2006, 12:55 PM   #7
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A democracy fundamentally means a government of, by and for the people.

If for a group of citizens in an independent country that means the majority electing for an Islamic theocracy, so be it. That is for them to decide.

If you believe in democracy that is.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by AliEnvy
A democracy fundamentally means a government of, by and for the people.

If for a group of citizens in an independent country that means the majority electing for an Islamic theocracy, so be it. That is for them to decide.

If you believe in democracy that is.


i understand what you are saying, but, the Bush "doctrine" for lack of a better word -- and this is a policy that is supported, mostly, by the rest of the West -- is that democracy in the Islamic world will make *us* safer, that it is in our national security interests.

if, as you rightly point out, that we must accept elected theocracies, does democritization remain in our best interests?
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:14 PM   #9
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Re: Is Democracy Always The Best Policy?

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland

Can we rightfully claim to recognize and respect the outcomes of free elections, if we then turn around and apply financial and policing pressures which leave *freely elected* extremists absolutely no breathing room?
You can rightfully claim to recognize the process of free elections without respecting the outcome.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
i understand what you are saying, but, the Bush "doctrine" for lack of a better word -- and this is a policy that is supported, mostly, by the rest of the West -- is that democracy in the Islamic world will make *us* safer, that it is in our national security interests.

if, as you rightly point out, that we must accept elected theocracies, does democritization remain in our best interests?
The *us* is our nation, perhaps for future generations.

You said it best before with "the beginning of a process that might lead to an answer".

And till we find a better process than democracy, I think we should stick to democracy.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:22 PM   #11
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Re: Re: Is Democracy Always The Best Policy?

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Originally posted by AliEnvy


You can rightfully claim to recognize the process of free elections without respecting the outcome.


can you? is this, then, tantamount to disrespecting the desires of the citizens of any nation?
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

if, as you rightly point out, that we must accept elected theocracies, does democritization remain in our best interests?
When the outcome of a democratic decision isn't in your favour, you don't have to accept it.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:24 PM   #13
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Re: Re: Re: Is Democracy Always The Best Policy?

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Originally posted by Irvine511
can you? is this, then, tantamount to disrespecting the desires of the citizens of any nation?
How can the citizens of another nation bind you to something they chose for themselves? I would guess that you do not automatically acknowledge and accept every law that is adopted through our democratic process.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by AliEnvy


When the outcome of a democratic decision isn't in your favour, you don't have to accept it.


isn't that Yolland's original question, then? isn't this sending the message, "we respect democracy when it works out in our best interests?"
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:25 PM   #15
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Re: Re: Re: Is Democracy Always The Best Policy?

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

can you? is this, then, tantamount to disrespecting the desires of the citizens of any nation?
I suppose that would depend on the manner in which you oppose those desires.
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