Islam versus democracy 189

Can the Arab states be democratized? Not just hold elections but firmly establish institutions for government of the people, by the people, for the people ?

Charles Krauthammer thinks it is possible.

He writes (in part) at Investor’s Business Daily:

As the states of the Arab Middle East throw off decades of dictatorship, their democratic future faces a major threat from the new totalitarianism: Islamism. As in Soviet days, the threat is both internal and external.

Iran, a mini version of the old Soviet Union, has its own allies and satellites — Syria, Lebanon and Gaza — and its own Comintern, with agents operating throughout the region to extend Islamist influence and undermine pro-Western secular states. That’s precisely why in this revolutionary moment, Iran boasts of an Islamist wave sweeping the Arab world.

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it — a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The U.S. supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the U.S. helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties — the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists — in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.

We may not have the power to prevent this. So be it. The Brotherhood may today be so relatively strong in Egypt, for example, that a seat at the table is inevitable. But under no circumstances should a presidential spokesman say, as did Robert Gibbs [the bumbling and fumbling White House press secretary – JB], that the new order “has to include a whole host of important nonsecular actors.”

Why gratuitously legitimize Islamists? Instead, Americans should be urgently supporting secular democratic parties in Egypt and elsewhere with training, resources and diplomacy.

We are, unwillingly again, parties to a long twilight struggle, this time with Islamism — most notably Iran, its proxies and its potential allies, Sunni and Shiite. We should be clear-eyed about our preferred outcome — real democracies governed by committed democrats — and develop policies to see this through.

And then the Arab states would become tolerant, pacific, industrious, productive, and prosperous?

We don’t think so. We don’t think they can be democratic as long as they remain – not “Islamist” but – Islamic.

Why? Because Islam and democracy, Islam and liberty, are essentially incompatible. Islam and Western civilization are totally antithetical to each other.

Islam is a dogmatism that forbids doubt – and doubt is the very DNA of our civilization. Doubt alone guarantees the tolerance which makes democracy possible. Doubt starts scientific enquiry, demands experiment and exploration.

Islam cannot be “reformed” to become its opposite.