Warnings against Muslim democratization, March/April 2003

While I have criticized President Bush’s policy of spreading democracy to Muslims at least since 2002 on the basis that it would harm the American nation, I have also opposed Muslim democratization because, given the nature of Islam, it wasn’t practicable, meaning (for those who may be rusty on the difference between “practicable” and “practical”) that it can’t be done. I used that word in my article at The American Thinker last week, and I used the same word—and pretty much the same argument—before the war. The drafting of a sharia-based constitution in Iraq over the last couple of weeks provides the definitive proof of arguments that I and others have been making for a long time, though virtually unheeded, at least until now, by mainstream conservatives. Below is a sampling of my warnings in March and April, 2003 about the overwhelming unlikelihood, indeed the impossibility, of Muslim democratization.

March 6, 2003:

Leaving aside the uncritical use of those troublesomely vague terms “democracy” and “democratization,” I do not disagree with the desirability of President Bush’s vision of a “democratized” Iraq, or even of a “democratized” Middle East. What I question is its practicability….

Yet the very qualities that make the Arabs and Muslims so troublesome is the very thing that makes Bush’s democratization project so questionable. The difference between the reconstruction of the Axis powers after World War II and the projected reconstruction of the Axis of Evil today is that Germany and Japan were civilizationally advanced, ethnically homogeneous countries with profound habits of order and obedience. By contrast, everything we know about Arab and Muslim societies suggests that they are so rife with sectarian divisions and political and religious fanaticism that no government can survive in those countries except through despotism. The Bush administration and the neoconservatives seem disturbingly blind to these profound tendencies in the Muslim culture, or seem to imagine that they can be easily cured with a little American good will and know-how, backed by military force. I sincerely hope that I am wrong and that the Bush team and the neoconservative optimists are right. But so far I do not see any reason to believe that they are right.

March 26, 2003:

Though Will doesn’t mention it, a particularly galling example of such overconfidence is the neoconservatives’ thoughtless use of the word “democratization” for what they propose doing to the Arab world. “Democratization” makes it sound as though democracy is something that can be injected into a society from the outside by some technical process, as though we could just press a button and whole countries, including tribal countries like Iraq, will be instantly “democratized.” Such fatuous expectations are doomed to disappointment.

April 8, 2003:

Given Iraq’s tribal, familistic, and hierarchical culture, and its lack of a publicly spirited elite with liberal principles, the “democratization” of that country is a most doubtful prospect, writes Stanley Kurtz in . Since the cultural underpinnings of free government do not exist in Iraq, they would first have to be created. That is what the British did in India, where they “explicitly set out to create an indigenous spiritually liberal and modern class.” Kurtz is not advocating such an ambitious and costly course in Iraq. He is saying, however, that if we are serious about “democratizing” that country, it is the indispensable prerequisite to that goal.

And this from April 13, 2003:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the neoconservatives have been completely correct in their call for the overthrow the Hussein regime—and disastrously foolish in their expectation that all peoples on earth are equally ready for democracy. As Thomas Sowell as written, before there can be a successful democracy, there must be first be a tradition of liberty under the rule of law.

Readers relatively new to VFR may also find it interesting to browse through VFR’s epic war debates of 2002 and 2003. Just go the Search page (which is also linked on the main page) and search for “Iraq” and “democracy,” or use whatever other search parameters you are interested in. The blog entry titles, with their opening lines of text and their dates, display in reverse chronological order, so you can go down to the bottom of the page and have a little time travel to see what I and VFR commenters were saying about this issue in 2002 and 2003.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 22, 2005 07:34 PM | Send

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