11 May 2010

Article: As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere

The "Guardian" newspaper on 8 April 2010 published an op-ed piece by Simon Jenkins titled "As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere". The subtitle or lead reads: "While the US and Britain slide towards oligarchy, the forced elections in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought no good".

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The west's proudest export to the Islamic world this past decade has been democracy. That is, not real democracy, which is too complicated, but elections. They have been exported at the point of a gun and a missile to Iraq and Afghanistan, to 'nation-build' these states and hence 'defeat terror'. When apologists are challenged to show some good resulting from the shambles, they invariably reply: 'It has given Iraqis and Afghans freedom to vote.' [...] Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and millions been driven from their homes [...]. The import of democracy has so far just inflamed local tension and fuelled fundamentalism. Like precious porcelain, elections were exported without instructions on their care. In the absence of adequate security, they are little more than tribal plebiscites. [...]

"As the joke in Kabul goes, as long as the west pretends to uphold his regime, Karzai must 'pretend to be Swedish'. He is America's exhibit A for world democracy. [...] Democracy in both America and Britain is [...] said to be sliding towards oligarchy, with increasing overtones of autocracy. Money and its power over technology are making elections unfair. The military-industrial complex is as powerful as ever, [...] democracy is not in good shape. How strange to choose this moment to export it, least of all to countries that have never experienced it in their history. The west not only exports the stuff, it does so with massive, thuggish violence, the antithesis of how self-government should mature in any polity. The tortured justification in Iraq and Afghanistan is that elections will somehow sanctify a 'war against terrorism' waged on someone else's soil. The resulting death and destruction have been appalling. Never can an end, however noble, have so failed to justify the means of achieving it. [...]

"A system of government that they [Britons] have spent two centuries evolving and still not perfected is being rammed down the throats of poor and insecure people, who are then hectored for not handling it properly. Why should they? The invasions of their countries was not their choice. They did not ask to be a model for Britain's moral exhibitionism. They did not plead for their villages to be target practice for western special forces. [...] [T]he only certainty for Karzai is that, one day, Nato will get fed up and leave him to his fate, as it is now leaving Maliki in Baghdad. If he wants to live, he must make his peace with Afghans, not Americans, and that means on Afghan terms. Free and fair elections and a stop to corruption will have no part to play in that survival game. Democracy has been greatly oversold."

Sir Simon David Jenkins, a journalist and book author, is the former editor of "The Times" and the "Evening Standard".

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