Saturday, June 28, 2014

Who should win the next Noble?

The next Nobel Peace Prize ... should go to the thinker or leader who develops a model of constitutional theocracy giving Muslim countries a coherent way of recognizing yet limiting the authority of religious law and making it compatible with good governance.

The way we interpret the article, Mark Lilla (sort of) regrets the fact that communism (which had all the good theories but bad practices) has been replaced by islamism (bad theory as well as bad practice). He is also clear that the goals of American foreign policy (more democracy everywhere) and European foreign policy (neo-liberalism everywhere) are badly flawed as applied to majority of non-democratic nations.

According to Lilla, Middle East North Africa will only be liberated when a giant (muslim) thinker/leader comes forward with a set of (divinely inspired but realistically best-fit) rules that will work for the diverse societies that call themselves muslim (he admits that such a great man is not yet amongst us). Till then he advises the world to be patient (and presumably watchful). 

Not a bad advice at all (especially if it cuts down on the war-making). However it is important to admit upfront that such an attitude/policy spells doom for the non-muslim minorities (as well as many muslim ones). If Lilla advocates generous asylum considerations for such people he should say so. If anti-immigrant sentiment in the West prevents such accommodation then the West and Westerners should abandon the holy high ground and quit the holier-than-thou talk. No one is impressed by the tall hat and short cattle initiatives - it may well be that foreign aid does more harm than good - least of all the bloody monsters that are thick on the ground.

A couple of points that are not addressed in the article:
(1) This strategy of (not so) benign neglect on behalf of the West ignores the ongoing and pernicious influence of (to a smaller extent) Iran and (the primary villain) Saudi Arabia. The question is how to stop the petro-dollars from causing so much strife, especially since the West relies on the Saudis to sell oil and buy armaments.  
Here we should recognize that Carlotta Gall was wrong, the right country to fight is neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan but S.A. (the real/spiritual home of the 9/11 perps).

(2) What happens to muslims in non-muslim countries who get radicalized by all the killings and sufferings of innocent muslims (that we are supposed to silently tolerate from a distance)? If the war comes to the West (and non-West countries as well) how do we handle that?  

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But in the mind of America’s political and journalistic classes, only two political categories exist today: democracy and le déluge. If you assume that democracy is the only legitimate form of government, that is a perfectly serviceable distinction. “What should not be, cannot be,” wrote the German poet. Unable or just unwilling to distinguish the varieties of non-democracy that exist today, we instead speak of their “human rights records,” which tell us much less than we think they do. 
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We turn to organizations such as Freedom House, a think tank that promotes democracy and publicizes human rights abuses around the world. It produces an influential annual report, Freedom in the World, which claims to quantify levels of freedom in every country on Earth. It gives them marks on different factors (rights to political participation, civil liberties, the press, etc.) and then combines those figures into a composite index number that indicates whether that country is “free,” “partly free,” or “not free.” 
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The document reads like a stock report: “this marks the seventh consecutive year in which countries with declines outnumbered those with improvements.” In 2013, readers were confidently told that, based on the numbers, the “most noteworthy gains” in freedom in 2012 had been in Egypt, Libya, Burma, and Côte d’Ivoire. One hardly knows where to begin. 
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Clearly, the big surprise in world politics since the cold war’s end is not the advance of liberal democracy but the reappearance of classic forms of non-democratic political rule in modern guises. ....
The break-up of the Soviet empire and the “shock therapy” that followed it produced new oligarchies and kleptocracies that have at their disposal innovative tools of finance and communication; the advance of political Islam has placed millions of Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s population, under more restrictive theocratic rule; tribes, clans, and sectarian groups have become the most important actors in the post-colonial states of Africa and the Middle East; China has brought back despotic mercantilism. 
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Each of these political formations has a distinctive nature that needs to be understood in its own terms, not as a lesser or greater form of democracy in potentia. The world of nations remains what it has always been: an aviary. 
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But ornithology is complicated and democracy-promotion seems so much simpler. After all, don’t all peoples want to be well governed and consulted in matters affecting them? Don’t they want to be secure and treated justly? Don’t they want to escape the humiliations of poverty? Well, liberal democracy is the best way of achieving these things.  
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That is the American viewand, true enough, it is shared by many people living in non-democratic countries. But that does not mean they understand the implications of democratization and would accept the social and cultural individualism it would inevitably bring with it.  
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No peoples are as libertarian as Americans have become today; they prize goods that individualism destroys, like deference to tradition, a commitment to place, respect for elders, obligations to family and clan, a devotion to piety and virtue. If they and we think that they can have it all, then they and we are very much mistaken. These are the rocks on which the hopes for Arab democracy keep shattering.
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The truth is that billions of people will not be living in liberal democracies in our lifetimes or those of our children or grandchildrenif ever. This is due not only to culture and mores: to these must be added ethnic divisions, religious sectarianism, illiteracy, economic injustice, senseless national borders imposed by colonial powers ... the list is long. 
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Without the rule of law and a respected constitution, without professional bureaucracies that treat citizens impartially, without the subordination of the military to civilian rule, without regulatory bodies to keep economic transactions transparent, without social norms that encourage civic engagement and law-abidingnesswithout all of this, modern liberal democracy is impossible.
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So the only sensible question to ask when thinking about today’s non-democracies is: what’s Plan B? 
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Nothing reflects the bankruptcy of today’s political thinking more than our unwillingness to pose this question, which smacks of racism to the left and defeatism to the right (and both to liberal hawks). But if the only choices we can imagine are democracy or le déluge, we exclude the possibility of improving non-democratic regimes without either trying forcibly to transform them (American-style) or hoping vainly (European-style) that human rights treaties, humanitarian interventions, legal sanctions, NGO projects, and bloggers with iPhones will make a lasting difference. These are the utterly characteristic delusions of our two continents.
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The next Nobel Peace Prize should not go to a human rights activist or an NGO founder. It should go to the thinker or leader who develops a model of constitutional theocracy giving Muslim countries a coherent way of recognizing yet limiting the authority of religious law and making it compatible with good governance. This would be a historic, though not necessarily democratic, achievement.
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No such prize will be given, of course, and not only because such thinkers and leaders are lacking. To recognize such an achievement would require abandoning the dogma that individual freedom is the only or even the highest political good in every historical circumstance, and accepting that trade-offs are inevitable. It would mean accepting that, if there is a road from serfdom to democracy, it will, in long stretches, be paved with non-democracyas it was in the West. 
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I am beginning to feel some sympathy for those American officials who led the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq ten years ago and immediately began destroying existing political parties, standing armies, and traditional institutions of political consultation and authority. The deepest reason for this colossal blunder was not American hubris or naïveté, though there was plenty of that. It was that they had no way of thinking about alternatives to immediateand in the end, shamdemocratization. Where should they have turned? Whose books should they have read? What model should they have relied on? All they knew was the prime directive: draft new constitutions, establish parliaments and presidential offices, then call elections. And after that, it was the deluge indeed.

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Link: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118043/our-libertarian-age-dogma-democracy-dogma-decline

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regards