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Democracy on Trial: the book

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Anuradha Kataria, author of “Democracy on Trial, All Rise!”America answers crucible of revolution with distrustful evolution
 
This morning, on this eleventh day of protests in Egypt, perhaps the eleventh hour for America to show how it handles change and turmoil in the developing world, I received an email from Anuradha Kataria, author of “Democracy on Trial, All Rise!”  It could not have been timelier, or more apropos, to what has been happening lately in the world of politics, extending from North Africa to the Middle East, touching many well entrenched autocratic regimes.

Ms. Kataria, who had used a citation in her book from an article I wrote in March 2010, “Iraq’s election results will confirm, but not bestow power,” appears to have her theory and analysis being put to the test once again.  Her book challenges democracy as being the right political model under all socio-economic contexts.  And that is something which I have observed for decades without the added analytical rigor of a social scientist.
 
The path to democracy, whether via revolution or evolution, is indeed quite different for a nation with a sizeable, educated middle class, than for a nation where the population is overwhelmingly rural, poor and conservative.  In the latter, according to Ms. Kataria, democracy leads to subversive use of “people power.” Here, of course, subversive could very well be considered a loaded word. 
 
America has followed the British tradition, model if you wish, in dealing with turmoil and unrest beyond its borders, from the moment it attained nationhood: all past and present American governments, without exception, have always insisted, and often demanded, that governments anywhere in the world be amicable to the United States and, if need be, subservient to its interests.  Although the State Department has always maintained America’s unequivocal promotion of civil rights and freedom for others in the world, the bottom line has been to accept dictatorships, or any form of autocratic government, when deemed as necessary to meet American economic and military objectives.  That is an indisputable fact that holds true today!  A fact that is complemented by another fact: that, overwhelmingly, Americans are in total accord when it comes to matters of empire and self-serving interests, freedom or civil rights appearing to have a looser definition when applied to people living beyond this nation’s borders. 
 
Latin America has always been the perfect example for a foreign policy based on self-serving interests dating back to the nineteenth century; the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine and the forceful incursion of the United States in economic, social and political matters that took place in the American hemisphere.  That arrogant Monroe Doctrine appears to have been replicated by Israel and her own declared “hemisphere” which apparently comprises the entire Middle East!
 
The biggest concern at the White House during this popular revolt in Egypt, one more prone to have economic rather than political roots, had less to do with freedom of the Egyptians to express their discontent, than with the degree of friendliness that a new regime might have for Israel.  From the outset, the US State Department made it clear to the world that the Muslim Brotherhood was an unacceptable element in any revolt, or in the possible sharing of future power in Egypt.  Never mind that the organization might be the voice of 20 percent or more of the Egyptian people, or that they have expressed themselves to the West in a friendly and co-existing tone!  But, just as the US showed its intransigence with Hamas after they won the Palestinian elections in January 2006, it shows its bullheadedness in denying the reality that the Muslim Brotherhood represents.  There is a direct line between Washington and Tel Aviv that supersedes and denies any other type of communication.  And that is, and will continue be, an insurmountable obstacle to world peace.
 
One thing we know for sure is that the situation in Egypt is causing global economic jitters, although the probability of the Suez Canal closing is almost zero.  An undertaking like that would be foolish for any type of government: autocratic, democratic or even one with strong fundamentalist roots.  Perhaps the biggest danger of all would come from fear itself and the possible stockpiling-hoarding of wheat and grains by some nations, such as Algeria and Saudi Arabia – or Egypt for that matter – that would greatly help metastasize the political strife.
 
While we may think of democracy as part of, if not the solution to, the problems of the developing world, we may heed Anuradha Kataria’s concern that it has more often than not led to instability, civil wars, genocides, fundamentalism, crime and corruption.  Let’s hope that such is not the case with Egypt or the other neighboring nations where people are aspiring to, at the very least, a greater degree of freedom.
 
© 2011 Ben Tanosborn


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