In this paper we are going to examine the question why there is no democracy in the Arab world.
First of all it should be noted that almost all the presidents since the proclamation of the United States were supporters of the idea to spread the American form of government outside the United States. Bill Clinton’s administration has carried out several military interventions under the banner of establishing democracy. But neither in Somalia, nor Haiti, nor in Bosnia, nor in Kosovo democracy failed to take root, too.
The administration of George Bush has made democracy promotion the main goal of the U.S. foreign policy. On this subject the president has focused in his second inaugural address. Issues of promoting democracy abroad are also devoted to the National Security Strategy of 2006. In addition, the White House issued series of initiatives aimed at promoting democratic development around the world, including well-known military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the Arab world, where the prospects for democracy once seemed promising – in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Egypt – Washington’s efforts were not successful.
However, the failure of Washington to promote a democratic model does not mean the destruction of democracy itself. In contrast, in the last quarter of the XX century, this form of government has survived an amazing recovery. Democracy inherent in the past only to a handful of rich countries, in a short time became the most popular political system in the world. In 1900 democracy was only in 10 countries, by mid-century the number had risen to 30, and 25 years later, their number did not decrease. And by 2005, 119 countries out of 190 in the world preferred a democratic form of government.
This seemingly paradoxical combination of the failure of the United States in promoting democracy, with its successful self-expansion causes a few questions. Why concerted efforts of the most powerful world powers to export their form of government proved to be ineffective? Why in the Arab countries there is no democracy?
Let us examine a little the history of democracy. The fact that in the XXI century is called democracy is actually a merger of two different political traditions. One is liberty, we mean the freedom of the individual. Other – popular sovereignty or democracy. Popular sovereignty appeared on the world stage with the French Revolution. Its creators claim that the right to govern belongs not to the crown of kings, as in the most countries in the foreseeable period, but to the peoples whom they ruled. According to Fukuyama et al (2010), freedom has a much longer pedigree, originating in ancient Greece and Rome. It consists of a series of clear political divisions in the various fields of socio-political system that enclose and thereby protect certain areas of social, political and economic life of government intervention.
At the end of the XIX – beginning of the XX century in several countries in Western Europe and North America freedom and sovereignty of the people came together. This compound had a success largely due to the development of an extensive network of government programs that contributed to the welfare of the population after the Great Depression and the Second World War. Every member of society acquired private property in one form or another, which did not only prevent mass impoverishment, providing the entire subsistence minimum, but also reinforced the commitment to private property. However, even this did not lead to widespread and broad dissemination of democratic governance.
By the second half of the twentieth century, popular sovereignty (or, at least one or other of its kind) had become almost universal. The procedure for the realization of this political principle – elections – was and remains simple. During the first three quarters of the twentieth century in most countries, governments were not elected through free and fair elections. However, most states could claim to be democratic, at least in the sense that the form of government adopted in them, differed from the traditional ones – a monarchy or empire. Leaders did not inherit their posts, and they were from the same ethnic groups that they controlled. Popular sovereignty incarnated just in this; and those who ruled the people were neither hereditary monarchs, nor foreigners.
If it is relatively easy to set the sovereignty of the people, the other component of democratic governance – the freedom – is much more complicated to provide. Institutions, skills and values necessary for freedom, can not be called to life by the order, just as people can not learn the game of basketball or ballet, without lengthy training or rehearsals
Prospects for the creation of a democratic system in the Arab countries are small. This is prevented by some of the features of Arab social and political life. Such features are not unique to the Middle East, but anywhere else they do not appear with such force.
First of all, oil. The region has the largest reserves of easily accessible oil. Countries that have achieved prosperity through its production and sales, often referred to as “petro-state.” They rarely meet the standards of modern political democracy. Such states do not require social institutions and civic skills which, if they could be moved into policies, encourage democracy. To get rich, they only need to extract and sell oil, but it is enough to a very small group of people who may not even be citizens of this country.
Moreover, because the government own oil fields and receive all revenues from oil exports, they usually tend to increase bureaucracy and increase power. The leaders of “petro” have unusually strong incentives to maintain control over the government, as well as incentives that undermine the voluntary renunciation of power. Private economy, which in other countries provides a counterweight to state power, is usually weak and insignificant there, and civil society remains stunted. Finally, non-democratic governments “petro” (especially the Middle Eastern monarchies, where oil is plentiful and the population is relatively small) use the wealth which is at their disposal in order to resist the movement towards democratization. In effect, they bribe the people, urging citizens to abandon political freedom and the right to decide who will govern them.
In the way of Arab countries to democracy, there is another obstacle. Throughout most of its history Muslim Arabs saw themselves as participants in the epic battle for world domination against the Christian West. The historical memory of this rivalry is still alive in the Arab Middle East and is fueling a massive aversion to the West. This, in turn, casts a shadow on everything that has a Western origin, including the dominant form of government in the West. For this reason, freedom and free elections in the Arab Middle East do not have such a high reputation, as in the rest of the world. Given all these circumstances, the Bush administration, whatever people speak about it, can not be blamed in the fact that it chooses an easy target, having focused efforts on promoting democracy in the Arab world.
Simpson (2007) writes that the rulers of the Arab Middle East are despotic, corrupted and cruel. Nevertheless, they are more liberal, tolerant, and inclined to pluralism than those who may come to replace them. In many Arab countries, elections brought to power politicians, acceptable to Osama bin Laden. For example, a senior U.S. diplomat during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak cautiously raised the issue of human rights and suggested that the Egyptian government might soften its attitude towards political opponents, to provide greater freedom of the press. Mubarak angrily replied that if he did what they say, Egypt would have been in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. And really the Egyptian government maintains a relentless struggle against Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. The most fluent speaker of Saudi Monarchy Prince Bandar bin Sultan, often reminds to the officials of the U.S. that if they pressure on much his government, the likely alternative to the existing regime will become not a democracy …, but theocracy in the spirit of the Taliban. Emir of Kuwait, being under the influence of the United States, offered to give voice to women. But the democratically elected parliament, which is full of Islamic fundamentalists, completely rejected this initiative of Emir. Similar trends are evident in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco, where almost by every political issue monarchs take a more liberal stance than the societies they govern.
Thus, many Islamic parties, hating democracy, welcome the idea of elections, which will enable them to come to power and establish their theocratic regime. Today in the Arab world there is no suitable ground for liberal democracy. The political climate, full of religious extremism and violence has been formed. As the region’s governments resort to repressive measures (such as in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia), Islamic opposition is activated, that pushes the power to the escalation of violence. “Arab way” has created the dictatorship, which nourished terrorism as an inharmonious relationship between the state government and society. There is also a paralysis of the economy, social stagnation and intellectual bankruptcy. In the Middle East, only 28% of countries can be characterized as “partly free”.
Why does the given region lag behind the way to a modern society? For bin Laden, the problem of Arab regimes is that they are insufficiently Islamic. He argues that only by returning to the Islamic origins, the Muslims will find justice. For him, democracy is a Western invention that generates social disintegration and lack of discipline. The purpose of bin Laden and his ilk is the overthrow of the existing Arab regimes and their replacement by a political organization based on Islamic Sharia law, like the existing Taliban regime in Afghanistan or the existing one in Iran.
Classical Islam, which has developed in VII-XIII centuries, does not recognize most of the ideas of democracy. A prominent researcher of the problems in Arab countries Rothstein and Broms (2010) wrote: “The ideas of the representative government elections … political institutions … and that the state should be secular – they are all profoundly alien to Muslim political traditions.” There is no doubt that the model of governance based on the Koran is authoritarian. Muslim holy book is full of references to a just emperor, a pious ruler, a wise ruler. The truth is that it is virtually useless to find in the Qur’an some threads to unravel the mystery of the true nature of Islam. This comprehensive book is full of poetry and contradictions.
In Islam, by the way, there is an anti-authoritarian component, the source of which is a statement of Muhammad: “If he (the governor) commands to commit sinful (against the laws of God) act, a Muslim should neither listen to (his master), nor obey his orders.” It gives every Muslim the right to oppose the government, interpreting its actions as sinful. Bin Laden and his accomplices began to climb the political struggle against their governments, whose policies they considered to be antiislam. This “sin” was defined by them in signing by A. Sadat a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, the decision of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in 1991 to allow staying of American troops. According to Rothstein and Broms (2010), having declared jihad in 1990, bin Laden declared: “This regime of Saudi Arabia has betrayed the Ummah (community of believers) and joined the Couffo (unbelievers), encouraging and assisting them in the fight against the Muslims.”
Everyday lives of most Muslims do not confirm views that this belief is inherently anti-Western and hostile to modernity. Thus, the most populous Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, has a secular government and religious opposition there is negligible. Even for the post of President woman was elected. After Indonesia, countries with large Muslim population, Pakistan and Bangladesh have the experience of liberal democracy. The fifth place in the number of Muslim population in the world belongs to Turkey. There is not sinless, but really a liberal democracy there. The country is a member of NATO and seeks to enter the European Union. The real problem is not related to the Muslim world in general and to the Middle East region, where in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, as well as in the Gulf Islamic fundamentalism let deep roots. It is the land of inspired mule and terrorists-suicides.
The Arab world is in the heart of the Islamic world. But this is only a small part of it in numbers: from 1.2 billion Muslims only 260 million live in the Arab countries. That is why the words “Islamic”, “Middle East” and “Arab” used in common parlance do not mean the same thing.
Based on the above, we can draw the following conclusions:
Democracy in the Middle East in the foreseeable future is not possible; it can not be brought on an armored personnel carrier. This process is evolutionary in times. Democratic reforms here will be possible only after the so-called secularization – the liberation of social and individual consciousness from the influence of religion. In Europe, this happened during the Reformation of the XVI century.
It is needed to strongly dissociate peacefully with the Muslim world, for which it is primarily necessary to deliver an effective barrier to the penetration of Muslims in Europe and North America. History confirms that the state, divided by the alien to each other cultures can not survive!
Thus, the foregoing part of this work, generally in the available and truthful form, in my view, presents the realities of the situation in the Islamic world and in the Middle East region in particular.
And now let us ask: Can the present form of Western-style democracy (and in particular the U.S.) be a benchmark for emulation, especially in Muslim countries? Two main issues are concerned by a famous American journalist Richard W. Murphy outlined in his book “Democracy and U.S. Policy in the Muslim Middle East”. This is, firstly, a falling curve of fertility among the white population, which will soon become a minority. Secondly, American culture has drastically changed; its most precious traditions are destroyed. “The war for the West is already lost,” said Rejwan (2007). Generation, for which the Cultural Revolution (60-ies, feminism, political correctness, freedom of abortion, pornography) is not a revolution, but the culture increased… Cultural revolutionaries replaced still a good country … by a moral cloaca, which is not worth living at … ”
A special destructive role in the destruction of social and spiritual foundations of Western society belongs to feminism, rooted in the minds of American and European women. American psychologist Lipset and Lakin (2009), being an ideologist of feminism, says: “I believe that in the 21st century … we’ll see a woman president, as well as Senate and House of Representatives filled by women. … Men will gradually do what previously was done by women.” It seems that this apologist of feminism does not exclude the fact that as a result of progress in science children will be give birth also by men, and not by those who are programmed for this by nature! …
Very vividly about feminism Yahya (2009) says: “And why for exempt (white) woman to give birth if she has a higher purpose? Non-free Muslim women regularly give birth, and if the free women don’t remember God and do not cease to fight with their feminine nature, the Muslim sea will flood the whole Christian world … even without any violence. By the very course of things.” Such expansion will take place by means of “a Muslim woman’s uterus.”
The product of feminism is also a so-called sexual revolution, legalized cohabitation of people free of traditional family ties and bonds, where the children are not planned … The sexual revolution has created a massive pre-marital sex among young people, including teenagers, students who are granted legal contraceptives! All this gives rise to immorality, the collapse of the family, the degradation of public morality.
There is no doubt that the ideology of feminism is unscientific and destructive, because its result is a steady decline in the number of white U.S. population and particularly those in Europe, where long ago death exceeds birth.
Based on the above in this paper, we can conclude that the introduction of democracy in the life of the countries of Islam, especially of the Western-style, is totally unreal! The best thing to do would be the promotion of theocratic regimes of the Muslim world of a liberal form of government on the model, such as Turkey.
Fukuyama, F. et al. (2010). Democracy’s Past and Future. Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21 (1).
Lipset, S. and Lakin, J. (2009). The Democratic Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Rejwan, N. (2007). Arabs in the Mirror: Images and Self-Images from Pre-Islamic to Modern Times. University of Texas Press.
Rothstein, B. and Broms, R. (2010). Why No Democracy in the Arab-Muslim World? The Importance of Temple Financing and Tax Farming. QoG Working Paper Series, Vol. 24.
Simpson, G. (2007). Sadiki, Larbi. The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses. Journal of Third World Studies, Vol. 24.
Yahya, K. (2009). Power-Influence in Decision Making, Competence Utilization, and Organizational Culture in Public Organizations: The Arab World in Comparative Perspective. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 19.