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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Our values tested

Terry Waite (former hostage in Lebanon), The Guardian, November 23:

"...War, as well as being a blunt instrument, fails totally to deal with the root issues underlying terrorism. In the political realm it requires statesmen and women; individuals who can think beyond the next election and who have the wisdom that comes from making an attempt to understand cultures other than those of the west.

"Western democracy has many attractive features and has brought manifold benefits. It takes no intelligence to recognise that it also has its dark side and that it cannot, nor necessarily ought it to be, exported to all parts of the world. If the optimistic statements made by some British and US politicians before the Iraqi war - when it was stated that the conflict would be concluded in weeks - were truly believed then one can only despair at the level of understanding demonstrated."

17 Comments:

Blogger Shabadoo said...

"It takes no intelligence to recognise that it also has its dark side and that it cannot, nor necessarily ought it to be, exported to all parts of the world."

Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on that one...I mean, they would have said the same thing about democratic values in Japan, and it's worked there, and India is the world's largest democracy. And both have and maintain very distinct and unique and vibrant cultures. Neither of these places counts as Western, yet the model has worked out pretty well. And certainly better than the previous alternatives on offer.

I'm not sure I get this whole 'democracy for me but not for thee' stance of so many people, even if there are honest disagreements about how to go about it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 11:24:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

You're right. Terry Waite is a flake. Shab, that brave democratic, knows so much about Western democracy and war.
Off to the front, are you soldier?

Thursday, November 24, 2005 11:28:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

Shab,

India suffered decades of oppression before becomming a democracy and as for Japan, well, getting nuked is bound to create change.

Japan ws certainly far from being a backward society, even before embracing democratic reforms.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 12:58:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Anty, this is your typical argument style: where did I say Waite was a flake? Nowhere. I just disagreed with one sentence in his statement and raised evidence that I thought countered it. You didn't like that, so you lashed out with a personal attack.

Class.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 12:58:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Addamo, I'm not quite sure I get your point.

India was a British colony, and for all the hatred the left has of empire, the experience did leave it with a host of Anglospheric institutions that certainly did create the foundation for a functioning civil society and democracy. If anything, the socialist experiments of the first few decades post-independence were more dangerous.

Re: Japan and backwardness. It was and it wasn't, but I'm not sure what your point is. Does a society have to have it together on some level as a pre-condition for democracy to take hold? Sure, but are you saying that the Arab Middle East is not at that point? I mean, the whole subtext in this discussion is Iraq, clearly.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 1:04:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

Like WMD spreading democracy was a pretext for going into Iraq.

There may have been believers amongst some neocons but experienced politicians and officials knew that "sound public reasons" were needed for the oil grab.

Iraq was artificially created by the West in the 1920s. At that time many Arabists knew that trying to weld 3 groups (Kurd, Sunni, Shia) into one country world lead to endless infighting.

For the people who want to control Iraq's oil this model has worked out really well.

Democracy is not possible until the groups are not forced to live together.

Pakistan and India are comparitely successful democracies because they DID split on religious lines.

Perhaps splitting will be a start for Iraq - certainly the Kurds deserve it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 1:09:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Yeah well the Kurds have pretty much been split for years and years now - if not an outright slice-and-dice of the country, probably some sort of Swiss-style canton system.

("MMMMmmmmm....Cantonese....". "Get outta here, Homer!")

Thursday, November 24, 2005 1:13:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

gigolo pete said...

Pakistan and India are comparitely successful democracies because they DID split on religious lines."

I would not go as far as to say that Pakistan is a democracy - in fact it isn't.
India is certainly a democracy - and there are probably more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan. Also Sikhs, Christians....There have been, and continue to be ethnic strife from time to time.

Saying that Iraq would naturally split along Sunni, Shiite, Kurd lines is too obvious and simplistic. Thinking ahead, I see a big problem if there became a Kurdistan in what was the Iraqi Kurdish area + Tikrit. The Turks and Iranians I suspect would be madder'n hell. Although the "West" would think this a positive thing. Don't be too convinced that the Shiites would want an Iranian driven/led democracy either. Anyway - a more complex issue than drawing up the boundaries along tribal lines.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 2:26:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

orang

Yes its simplistic but to include all the complexities would mean a book that noone would read.

What of my concept that Iraq was artificially created by the West?

Note "Gigolo Pete" is now "Spying and Sensuality"

Thursday, November 24, 2005 3:08:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Whatever the mechanics with Iraq or its successor states, the point remains that there is no reason that other cultures can't thrive with a democratic political overlay - yes it's often not pretty and takes a long time to get right, but as an ideal I reckon it's, well, ideal.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:03:00 pm  
Blogger smiths said...

i think terry waite got kidnapped in lebanon when he went to organise the release of john mccarthy and brian keenan. mccarthy was a journalist who had gone to lebanon to cover the story of keenans kidnap.
i read the book by keenan called an evil cradling about his experience of being kidnapped, held for about 5 years and tortured.
amazing stuff and well worth a read

shab, why do you read antony's blog?

Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:41:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

I agree with you Shab.

Democracy is something the West need not feel guilty about.

Its Arab oil money - perpetuating the Saudi absolute monarchy (and others) that is the main drag on democracy in the Middle East.

Even though Western countries seek to warp or reinvent democracies (Iran is a case in point) at least there are some democratic seeds in the Middle East.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 5:07:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

smiths, simply because of beautiful people like you.

you would find it pretty boring if everyone agreed with everyone else, wouldn't you?

Thursday, November 24, 2005 5:49:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

I like spying and sensuality better than gigolo pete.
It's more gender neutral amd less tough guy.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 8:31:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

I dunno..."spying and sensuality" has a bit of the hidden peephole camera about it...just my two shekels.

Friday, November 25, 2005 10:11:00 am  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

Are, but it is significant that you peeked shaba.

The site is for the thinking person who has worldly instincts.

Friday, November 25, 2005 10:55:00 am  
Blogger Edward Mariyani-Squire said...

"It takes no intelligence to recognise that it also has its [democracy's] dark side and that it cannot, nor necessarily ought it to be, exported to all parts of the world."

You only need to do 'Political Theory 101' to know that most democratic forms have the capacity to turn dark (the usual 'tyranny of the majority' stuff), and you only need to do 'How To Read Between The Lines 101' to know that most actually existing democracies can be fairly easily transformed into dark oligarchies.

I don't think that makes democracy an undesirable universal ideal however. On the other hand, "exporting" it (what a ridiculous metaphor) by strapping it to bombs is the STUPIDEST AND MOST EVIL way of attempting to bring about the ideal.

I think there is always potential for democratic ideals to GROW FROM WITHIN societies, whatever their culture and history, if only because there are almost always 'fragments' of it, however tiny, in all societies. ...and majorities (as opposed to elites) tend to like the idea wherever they're located. How FAST the ideal 'grows' into reality and by what MEANS it is facilitated cannot be DICTATED EXTERNALLY without disaster however - a la Iraq.

Here's an extract from a speech given by Lord Chris Patten . He argues that the populous of the Middle East thinks Western democracy is A Good Thing (they just don't like the policies that come out of Western democracies:

"Above all, I beg political leaders not to think that there is some, as I said earlier, some fundamental difference in values. Zogby International have done a big poll off attitudes in the Arab League states, attitudes to values. And what is interesting is how little difference there is between attitudes in the Arab countries and attitudes in Europe and America, even to the dreadful extent of the favourite television programming the Arab League countries being Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

"There is, when you look at the some of the UNBP staff and the World Value Survey and Zogby, there is one finding again and again, which is that people living in Arab countries are more passionate about democracy than people living in East Asia, or than people living in America. It’s not our values which those Islamic societies object to, it’s our policies. If they were perfectly happy with the policies but hated the values, it would be more of a problem, but we can actually do something about the policies and the sooner we start, in my judgment, the better."

Friday, November 25, 2005 1:10:00 pm  

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