The Seeds of Democracy Take Root in the Middle East
Previously published on Feb 6, 2011
Long has the American culture planted the seeds of democracy across the globe. As such, the spread of democracy from the West into Africa, Asia, and the Middle East is inevitable while a democratic Egypt could represent a turning point for the entire region. By American tourists freely exercising the freedoms, which we often take for granted, abroad, American businesses shoving the American experience and expectations down the throats of foreigners, and our government building democratic nations, the US has facilitated the creation of a global political environment where democratization is the natural procession of all countries. Since the end of the bipolar struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States, the entire International Community has been gravitating toward a democratic order of democratic nation-states. As one of the region's most influential countries, the democratic uprising in Egypt should be seen as the first step toward a far more democratic Middle East.
Since the rise of the US as the world's first true hegemonic superpower following the Cold War, the various countries of the world have been attempting to regain their ability to freely exercise their sovereign powers, even if that means giving up sovereignty to lesser allies such as what is seen in the European Union. This resovereignization process has not, however, simply generated a resistance to Western influence around the world and created a push away from US dominance of the International Community. Because no government can thrive without effective allies thanks to this reality while the International Community defines the role of government by the needs of its People, the existence of a successful nation-state depends upon its People. Consequently, when a non-democratic government does not have enough economic resources to squelch civil unrest with socialist programs or sufficient military might to corral its People, democracy is inevitable.
Although all governments embrace some socialist programs for the benefit of their Peoples, socialism has been used to purposely suppress the political will and freedoms of the Peoples in the Middle East. In fact, following the democratic uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, several non-democratic governments, including Saudi Arabia which might consider embracing democratic governance alongside its monarchy, moved to increase subsidies for food staples and fuel. Ironically, the US has been gripped by a fear of anything labeled socialism, yet has supported the use of oppressive socialism to satiate the demands of Middle Easterners as a means to ensure stability. With the near collapse of the global economy during the Great Recession, capitalist countries, such as the US, have seen civil discontent due to high employment, rising costs, and deflated wages. Where American youth have been staging an ongoing quiet cultural revolution, i.e. the wave that helped elect President Obama, and Baby Boomers have been far more vocal, i.e. the Tea Party movements, Middle Eastern youth have little recourse outside of revolt.
Like a colony of penguins testing the waters for predators, it was only a matter of time before a Middle Eastern country was pushed into a democratic revolution. The failure of socialism to satiate the needs of modern Egyptians and the weakness of a dictator primed this Arab country for such a change. When the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution succeeded, young Egyptians saw it was time to take the plunge. Where Afghans and Iraqis had democracy forced upon them, which has meant a lack of democratic participation by these Peoples and great instability, Egyptians show they are prepared for democracy. Fortunately, the peaceful nature of the Egyptian protests has left the Country's social and civil infrastructure intact while some form of a stable transitional government can evolve from the old regime. In the end, democracy is more likely to succeed in Egypt, because those leading the revolution are not extremists and the transition to democracy can be made with minimal growing pains. A successful Egyptian democratic government could, in turn, spark democratic reforms across the region, and beyond.
That said, the fact that a lack of jobs, a skyrocketing cost of living, and a failure of government responsiveness lead to political outrage does not mean democracy will immediately solve these problems also faced by rich capitalist countries. In reality, the transition to democracy will likely exasperate these social issues for some time. Like the West, Egypt's economic problems can only be solved with solid people-centered economic policies strengthened over years versus decades of neglect and abuse that has allowed the flow of money to be directed to the few, not a single vote. When looking at mature democracies, it is easy to forget the democratization process comes with growing pains while political division can provoke violence, much like what happened in the French Revolution and the American Civil War. Impatience on behalf of the Egyptian People will lead to the failure of their budding democracy as avoiding the mistakes many Western democracies have made requires great civility. In the short-term, democracy translates into uncertainty and instability, but over time the world will find democracy in Egypt is best. We must all, however, be prepared for great change in the very near future.