Ah yes, the sanctimonious Germans. For fifty years, the free Germans were protected by the US who helped rebuild Germany as a nation and a democracy. Now they sneer while worrying about the growth of Islamism amongst their Turkish population…
Freedom for what and for what end?
If they vote for an Islamic republic, ruled by the clergy, it will not be the democracy that you wish to see. It will be a theocracy with elections managed by the clergy, where real power is held by the Army, the secret police, the clergy themselves and the ruling elite.
Eastern Europeans wanted, campaigned for and died for Western democracy where elections are underpinned by the rule of law. Where are the Arab liberals? Where are the Arab feminists and those campaigning for civil liberty? The answer is that outside of metropolitan elites, these are surrounded by conservative populations to whom the ideas of the nationalists and Islamists have a stronger appeal. Even amongst the educated, the Islamists are strong.
Does Der Spiegal not realised that the doctors and lawyers federations in Egypt are controlled by the Islamists? Do they not realise that there is a strong ‘street’ feeling that the woes of the Arab world are due to Israel’s existence and US power? Pan-Arabism never died but has morphed into an idea of the Islamic global community. This idea is strong in the Middle East as it gives a wider sense of community and allegiance.
Was the West ever a role model or is this a display of sentimental narcissism? Did the Arab world ever really look to us as a whole? The Islamist movements have been growing in strength in the Arab world since the 1960s but not at the expense of liberal secularists but at the expense of Arab nationalism, which itself was never far removed from Fascism.
Where there has been strong liberal currents as in Lebanon, these have been opposed by an alliance of the Arab Nationalists (Baath) and Islamists (Hezbollah/Iran). The West has not failed Lebanese liberals because of a lack of faith in its own ideals but because it has persistently mistaken Arab Nationalism and Islamism as moderate movements, reacting to Western provocation.
The chief Western fault has been a seduction of our intelligentsia and policy elites by the ideas of Edward Said (and his school), denying agency to the Arabs and insisting that our very intellectual consideration of the Arab world is conditioned by racism. Through this paradigm, the West has tried to treat with the anti-liberal forces as if they were European states and not fundamentally hostile ones. The negotiations with Iran over its not-so-covert nuclear weapons programme should have demonstrated this; nothing has made Iran shift from this destabilising programme, short of fear of a United States invasion after 2003.
Der Spiegal demonstrates once again that we are substituting wishful thinking in the West for cogent analysis.
Yes, we neoconservatives want to see democracy in the Arab world. We still think that even one successful Arab democracy will create the momentum for long term change in that region. But we recognise that a democracy is about more than just elections. It is a civil order.
In order for a democracy not to fall victim to demagogues using the language of democracy in order to end it, it needs civil institutions committed to a defence of democracy, it needs a relatively liberal society and especially one prepared to tolerate religious and ethnic minorities. And it needs a strong sense of civic identity.
Some of these are present in modern Egypt but others are not. The Army is the backbone of the present regime; the clergy are hostile to liberalism (and this matters); the Muslim Brotherhood are stronger and more deeply entrenched in educated society than Western journalists realise and are by their ideological nature hostile to liberal democracy.
Is this the fault of the West or are we overestimating our own potestas?