Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah has stated, “If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” (Daily Star, Oct. 23, 2002).
Is it really a good thing for members of Hamas and Hezbollah to have freedom of expression? Is it a good thing that Hamas is able to teach children that the killing of Jews is a noble act? Would Mill think it was a good idea for these people to publicize their opinions, in order to expedite a second Holocaust? Are Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and assorted other Islamists across the Muslim world, the “barbarians” Mill was referring to who would be better served — they and others in their society — under “despotism”?
Plato warned against democracy because he feared the ascendancy of demagogues, who would whip up the passions of the people for nefarious causes. Of course, all societies, including America, face the problem of demagogues. However, in America we are not concerned that a majority of the people are going to take seriously the call by some for the Jews to be annihilated. The Middle East is a different story. In the Middle East, people do take this type of rhetoric very seriously, as anti-Semitic propaganda has brainwashed large swaths of Arab societies. In the Middle East, “free and equal discussion” can quickly degenerate into rabid chants of “death to America” and “death to Israel.”
In the West we reflexively look at democracy as a good thing for everybody. However, in order for democracy to prosper, a society must have as its foundation certain values, such as tolerance, liberty (especially freedom of speech and religion), personal responsibility and the renouncement of violence. If any of these values are missing, the society will crumble. Unfortunately, many countries in the Middle East do not tolerate Jews or Christians, preach violence against Israel and the Jews, and do not believe in freedom of religion. Should people in countries like this be given the opportunity to elect their own representatives?
The Bush Doctrine held that bringing democracy to Muslim countries would be better for them and us. Is he right? Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt kept the peace with Israel for thirty years. Now, within a few months of his disposal, there has already been a serious incident on the Israel/Egypt border, where several Israelis were murdered in a terrorist attack.
Is it in the interest of free, liberal societies and world peace to promote democracy in societies that are controlled by radical Islamic elements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? The verdict is still out.
Democracy, after all, may not be a bad thing for the Middle East. In the end, it is possible George Bush might be vindicated, and in 50 years, he might be considered among the best presidents in the history of America for catalyzing the democratization of the Middle East. For that to happen, countries in the Middle East must marginalize, and eventually eliminate, the barbarians—such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood—in their midst. At the moment, that is not happening, as radical elements in the Palestinians territories, Egypt and Libya, seem to be emboldened.
It is important to remember that democracy is not a good end in itself. It is merely just a means to a hopeful, and usually, good end.
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