Romney’s pathetic statement on the Arab Spring

Mitt Romney has an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A New Course for the Middle East.” Especially on the question of the spread of anti-Western violence and jihadism in the Mideast in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” it is painfully disappointing.

He writes:

The Arab Spring presented an opportunity to help move millions of people from oppression to freedom. But it also presented grave risks. We needed a strategy for success, but the president offered none. And now he seeks to downplay the significance of the calamities of the past few weeks.

What Romney is saying is that democracy in Muslim countries can work, but that it can only work if the U.S. has a “strategy for success.” This is the standard neoconservative position that if the U.S. “carefully manages” the new “democracies” (rather than, like Obama, letting them develop on their own), they will develop into nice, liberal, pro-Western, constitutional republics, and not into nasty, sharia-ruled, anti-Western, Islamic republics.

So on one hand Romney acknowledges that Muslim democracy “presents grave risks” (i.e., grave risks of going sharia), and on the other hand he argues that it is in the power of the U.S. to help democratic Muslim countries avoid those risks. He doesn’t think that Muslim democracy is the problem; he thinks the absence of a U.S. strategy to guide Muslim democracy is the problem.

But he does acknowledge that Muslim democracy presents grave risks. Why does it present grave risks? Because of the very nature of Muslim societies. Namely, the majority of people in those societies are observant Muslims who believe, as all good Muslims must, in rule by Islamic law. Therefore if the majority of people in those countries democratically choose their government, they will choose an Islamic-law government. What American “strategy for success” can possibly alter that logic?

The strategy for success Romney is thinking of is strong U.S. involvement in those countries, in which we lecture, cajole, and bribe them to choose a secular-liberal course, rather than an Islamic-sharia course. He writes:

And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

But, again, if, as Romney implicitly concedes, Muslim democracy by itself will lead in a bad direction, and must be carefully managed and led by “the full spectrum of our soft power” to prevent it from going in a bad direction, then Muslim democracy is not a good thing, right?

Further, if, as is ineluctably the case, Muslims given democratic elections will choose an Islamic-sharia government, then the full spectrum of our soft power cannot, even theoretically, accomplish the difficult task that Romney sets out for it.

Since Romney is of a mathetical cast of mind, I’ll put the problem in the form of an equation:

Muslims + democracy = Islamic-sharia government.

No amount of American guidance, lecturing, support for Muslim liberals, offers of American financial aid to fledgling Muslim democracies, threats to withhold American financial aid from fledgling Muslim democracies, can alter that equation. If Muslims have democracy, they’ll have sharia government. The only way to prevent them from having sharia government is to prevent them from having democracy.

Romney displays not the slightest sign of awareness of the gross illogic of his position. He mindlessly and irresponsibly echoes the mindless and irresponsible neocons.

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Robert Blake writes:

Very good piece. Romney has always been weak on Islam, possibly as a result of his reflexive defensiveness as a Mormon. An unexpected example of the untrustworthiness of those who believe they’ve been oppressed.

I would like to expand your equation slightly. Yes, sharia law will likely be established wherever you have a Moslem majority. But even if a majority opposes it, you will always have a minority who will go to any length to impose it. So even a “liberal” Moslem state will have to become a police state to contain and suppress the Moslem militants.

The only way you can have Moslems and no sharia and no police state is if they are few in number and dispersed.

KO writes

I do not know if you have used it before, but the juxtaposition, “Muslim democracy” seems to capture the essence of the problem.

Westerners, used to periodic elections, seem unable to believe that a democracy could abolish itself, for example by voting for a sharia-based constitution. In Britain, however, we have direct experience of such a phenomenon. In 1975, the Labour Government held a referendum on membership of the then European Economic Communities (now the EU).

We have been held to that “Yes” vote ever since, and there is no way for subsequent generations to force a new one.

LA replies:

I certainly have used the phrase before, but you point me to the way it needs to be used: to push the idea that “Muslim democracy” is a contradiction in terms, an absurdity, an utter impossibility that no reasonable man has the right to speak of as though it were possible.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 01, 2012 07:05 AM | Send

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