Thursday, 1 October 2009

Democracy - an export product?

Being a regular reader of Newsweek, I remember quite well those days and weeks right after the invasion of Iraq. Democracy will finally brought to the Middle East, I was reading. There was one argument brought up again and again. "We brought democracy to Germany after the war and it worked so well. Why shouldn't it be the same in Iraq".

Holy innocence. These journalists, professional line scribblers, just don't know what they are talking about. Could be, too, that they were simply repeating what they gathered "from well informed sources".

Six years later nothing has come out of those noble efforts but democracy is still very much on the official agenda.

Bringing democracy to a country like Afghanistan or Iraq is like trying to teach step dance to a paralytic in a one-week-crash-course. I don't wish to say this is bound to fail. No! It is downright crazy.

Democracy is a frail plant, it needs constant care from everybody and its main ingredient is the rule of law. And the rule of law is only possible if the vast majority of the people concerned is honest and law abiding and not only when a police officer is breathing down their neck.

When the US forces took Baghdad in 2003, for several weeks or months there was no authority in the town. Saddam's forces of evil were disbanded and the Americans did not care and did not bother. They only guarded the Oil Ministry (and the oil fields in the country side, sure). And what happened? Hell broke loose, thousands of citizen started to loot and steal wherever possible. Any object not solidly embedded in concrete, museums, shops, administrations were looted and gutted. With people like this democracy is impossible. They need a benevolent dictatorship and naturally, that's what they get and deserve.

Next stop Afghanistan. There is the saying that the quality and the seriousness of a democracy is not shown during voting but during counting.

Afghanistan is not really a country or a nation. It is a big tribal area called Afghanistan and its people are dedicated poppy growers. The smallest entity is the family and at its head is the husband. Women and children are kind of property and if they know their place and behave accordingly everything goes well like in all families. If the family gets desperately poor - as is happening now - the master sells a girl.

Next comes the tribal chief. This guy is something like God's representative on earth, he alone gives security and rule of law, the tribal law meaning Muslim Sharia, the religious law. You don't vote against the Chief. If the Chief decides for superior reasons that he opts for socialism, conservatism, liberalism or any other -ism for money or power, the tribe votes along those lines. And in case the Chief has a new inspiration and switches - for superior reasons - from one ism to another ism, or from friend to foe, the tribal members change, too. That is their duty and their honor.

So, in a nutshell, let's keep democracy at home. Let's improve it here because we are far from perfect, everybody knows that. We should always be ready to give advice and a lend a helping hand like training specialists, opening our universities, activities like that. But, please, no more voting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or elsewhere, sponsored by Western nations and paid by its tax payers.


  1. Hi George,

    I can't be more agree with you.

    Take care

  2. Hello George.. Namaste from India..

    " They need a benevolent dictatorship and naturally, that's what they get and deserve."

    Don't you feel that is exactly what America is trying to install? A benevolent dictatorship {Oil drilling rights being part of benevolence though ;-)} which hopefully will mature into a decent democracy with time.Of course they chant democracy in the press conference but thats just to keep the public sweet.

  3. Hi Georg,

    I agree with you. Democracy is becoming a new religion for all seasons and all reasons. As you have rightly mentioned, there are certain basic requirements for democracy to flourish. And those are not visible in Iraq and are not likely to be visible in Afghanistan for a very long time.

    There is a need to understand this fact and develop tailor made solutions which do not clash with local customs and conditions but, at the same time, offer a way out the hell hole these people have got themselves into but don't want to accept they have.

  4. Hallo Georgy,
    Clear eyed post as always! It's amazing how crap like "we brought democracy to Germany" could ever get printed in a real printed media by supposed journalist. Ughhh... Hitler was democratically elected, wasn't he?

    And, after having spent many childhood years in SE Asia, I have to agree with you that democracy isn't the best form of government everywhere. It barely works here in the USA since it requires an educated and politically alert citizenship... which isn't quite something I'm convinced that we have. We tried to impose it in Vietnam, and, after all these years, still force those dead soldiers and non-soldiers to die in vain because we keep trying to do it elsewhere even after all the mess that war caused.

    Really... I don't know how anyone can get into politics today and stay sane for longer than a week. ;oP Hope October has started well your way! Greetings from very cloudy San Diego!

    Smorgy :o)

  5. To Hiva
    Glad to hear that. Would like to know what YOU have to say about the subject.

    To Deep Blue Sea
    To tell the truth, I don't know what the USA+NATO countries are trying to install. I suppose they are clueless and are muddling through.

    Namaste means hello, bonjour, hi, something like that??

    To Vinod
    As always, you bring this subject crisply to the point. These countries certainly need "tailor made solutions" as you said and I suppose those must come largely from them.

    To Smorgy
    Thanks for this thoughtful comment.
    As to your 3rd paragraph "how can anyone enter politics and stay sane" I have often asked myself more or less the same question: "how can anyone want to enter politics?" But it is a fact there is a certain number of people who seem to relish this constant fighting and scheming. And to be honest, at the lower level there is quite a big number of very honest politicians who really feel the need to be constructive.

    Cheers to all of you

  6. You are right Georg. Namaste means 'Greetings' in India..

  7. Hi,
    Democracy is flawed. Globalisation makes it look more flawed.But that doesnot mean it is bad.That is why the Taliban fear it to the point to oppose it and want imposition of sharia law as a means of their hold over the masses. That is the reason Chinese also fear it.Education is the key in Afghanistan.

  8. To Captainjohann,

    "Education is the key in Afghanistan" that is most certainly right. But for the moment the few existing schools are being burnt down by the Afghanis. Thus education will have to wait a little longer till the people there wish to get it.

    By the way, education is the key everywhere, in all countries without any exception.


  9. Hallo Sorrow,

    I looked it up in the dictionary: a fairy elfin like creature. Your stained glass creation looks graceful. But she has no face and I regret this. It should be technically possible.

    Best wishes

  10. hello herr Georg

    agreeing with all your commentators, this is a brilliant post, as much as your disregard politics, i actually think you'd be a talented and fair politician, your ideas seem always so clear! and also agree with you that education is required not only in Afghanistan but all over the world, it's amazing what learning can do for one's soul

    a romantic idea of mine, if soldiers were required to read at least 1 book per week, there would be no war...

    i feel that the "West" has been using as an excuse their fear of the Islam religion and other not-so-'advanced' philosophies, religions, and politics, of attacking us to disguise their (our) ultimate interest, oil, sadly, neither religion or politic view seem interested in the fundamental reason to fight for, the sake & preservation of humanity, west, east and most of us, seem to be blinded by the immediate reward, how stubborn are we all!!

  11. Hola Berenice,

    Thank you for your kind comment. There is one point I like to stress. Sure, there are uneducated soldiers, blockheads, like everywhere else. But there are many clear thinking soldiers in all western armies at all times. I say this because in my family and among parents' of friends there were a few professional soldiers and mariners and I liked to listen to them. The duty of a soldier is to obey whatever he is thinking about the venture/adventure at hand.

    Thus the politicians are to be blamed for most of those stupid wars not the soldier who pays with his health or even his life.


  12. Time and again history has proved that democracy is not a product, thus cannot be exported; it is an idea, a concept, that has to evolve from within and therefore has to be homegrown. Anyone trying to impose it from the outside, with/for whatever benevolent reason, clearly has a hidden agenda of his own which has nothing to do with democracy.

  13. Time and again history has proved that democracy is not a product, thus cannot be exported; it is an idea, a concept, that has to evolve from within and therefore has to be homegrown. Anyone trying to impose it from the outside, with/for whatever benevolent reason, clearly has a hidden agenda of his own which has nothing to do with democracy.

  14. To Id it is,

    Not only you are right but I really admire your power of definition. In just two lines you have said it all where I needed an entire page to express myself. That might be the reason why you can make so good poems. A poem is beautifully compressed meaning.


  15. democracy can make every one democrazy, but really is there a order in this confusion. the definition is explained better in the book - animal farm.

  16. bon!!!
    rien à gauche! Rien à droite!
    je vois que je suis le seul french speaker dans ce blog. Je peux donc m'exprimer sans m'attirer les foudres de mes talibanesques concitoyens.

    Ca c'est ben vrai!!!
    La démocratie ne peut être appliquée à un quelconque peuple fraichement sorti de l'obscurantisme, du moyen âge ou d'une récente décolonisation mal programmé.
    Alors si en plus il est conditionné par de sombres crétins enturbanés qui leurs font croire à des histoires de justice divine, de mains ou de doigts coupés.....

    Y a qu'à voir ce que l'Afrique est devenue (à part quelques rares états, et encore!!!) depuis qu'ils nous ont mis dehors.

    Lorsqu'on prend le cas de l'Allemagne Post-nazie la démocratie a vite été rétablie par ce que le peuple avait déjà une haute éducation morale, politique et civique (y a qu'à voir les conducteurs Allemands s'arrêter au niveau d'un "zébra" pour laisser traverser un piéton).

    Non! C'est dommage de le dire, mais la démocratie n'est pas à mettre entre toutes les mains.

    A plus Georg

    "A dichiatz!!!" comme on dit chez nous.

  17. George hi,

    As I said I'm totally with you on this. Democracy is not a gift to be given, it's a state one should reach to him/herself. Of course you can help and advise like a teacher but one has to learn it , feel it all by her/himself.
    People should reach to this level of understanding that it's enough to let one or a certain group of people ruin their life. Democracy won't come until the majority of people really want it, and act like democrat person.
    And one more thing, even western country need to be careful because democracy wont genetically pass through generations. Young generation are needed to be educated. Even in western country there is always risk that dictatorship came back
    Just few days ago I was shocked when I realize that Italian prime minister made a law about 1 year ago that granted his immunity (despite his corruptions charges).
    thank god Italian constitutional court are doing a good job.

  18. Pour Vince

    Tu pourrais remplacer Sarko au pied levé. En attendant, t'as bien raison. Sur toute la ligne.

    To Hiva
    I really like that phrase "democracy does not pass genetically through the generations". First, you are right but you say this with a splendid sens of humor.

    As to Berlusconi, he plays in a liga of his own but it should be said he was elected by the Italians not by himself.