As onlookers on the deterioration of the Arab Spring, one cannot help but question the premise that democracy is a precondition for peace. Can democracy really be the remedy to centuries of warfare? Has the Arab Spring failed as we see more uprisings now under supposedly “democratic” governments than we did last year?
In Fareed Zakaria’s book The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, he outlines a brief history of liberty in the first chapter. Very unique and specific circumstances led to the creation of modern democracy, a complex amalgam of feudalist heritage, enlightenment philosophy and capitalism. Freedom and a variety of situations, property rights, the rule of law, the separation of church and state, checks and balances and a whole other host of prerequisites – yet not one single aspect alone can make a successful modern democracy.
Is order then a prerequisite for the alleged democratic peace? If so, there is some hope for the secular apparatuses ingrained in some Middle Eastern countries which supposedly combat Islamist extremism. For instance, in Turkey and Egypt, it is the secular military which feels some preordained duty to restore order after uprisings and protests in the leadership, whenever the religion creeps back into politics. The Asian tigers are also interesting case studies when examining evidence that proves authoritarian order, much like feudalism, can give birth to free societies.
Now when we speak of order, the image of dictatorial rule troubles the Western mind and such a prescription for the world peace seems a hard price to pay. This author thinks it a far cry to praise any sort of oppressive regime. However, we must find a way to describe this perplexing trade-off of religious freedom for political freedom in Middle Eastern countries (which may in some cases, not even guarantee freedom at all!). While modern democracy is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution, freedom is freedom irrespective of state structure or oversight. The dilemma for these countries is that they have not yet understood how to check and balance one set of freedoms against another. And so, the revolution marches on and the national army continues to intervene to restore some measure of order until the people decide what they want.
In this respect, there might be some hope for these countries. Foreign policy aside, there will always be some measure of order in these Arab Spring countries and there will always be some sort of resistance to that order for the sake of change – whether productive or not.
As Mises points out, it would be naive to think that the world progresses independent of human action in the Hegelian or Fukuyaman sense. A man’s interests are rarely identical with his class, however much the Marxists wish it so. What is useful for us to know is Fukuyama’s admittance that little intellectual or emotional appeal can be found in Islamic fundamentalism by the majority of Muslims. They will have to learn on their own how to preserve their private beliefs, while building progressive state institutions which embrace democratic values – independent of foreign intervention (with the exception of extreme cases where crimes against humanity are committed). Their modern states are young, so they will need more time to develop.
In the meantime, what should the onlookers do to soften order’s blow? As in the case of European and Asian countries, the government must be amenable to democratic change. The United Nations has done a poor job of fostering a culture of liberty within its mandate. Particularly in the last few years, we have seen every attempt by this body to cater to the whims and wishes of dictatorial countries in order to make them “feel more included”, with the reasoning that their inclusion is more important than changing their hearts and minds.
This borders oxymoronic, since the institution was originally created to combat such atrocities as were seen in the World Wars from ever happening again. It is why the human rights regime was developed. It is why international tribunals were called to order. It is why the UN Security Council was formed: To combat those tyrannies in the world which impinged on the sanctity of human life, dignity, and liberty. Such a cosmopolitan culture has fallen by the wayside into abuse and disuse. Until our League of Nations 2.0 can return to such values in a meaningful way, then we cannot hope for peace in the Middle East, nor anywhere where the chains of oppression turn our fellow man into cattle.