Posts Tagged ‘Democracy promotion’

How to promote democracy

March 14, 2016

If the United States government were interested in promoting democracy and freedom, a simple, safe and cheap way to do it would be to stop giving military and economic aid to governments that practice rape, torture and murder.

This doesn’t require invasions, bombings or funding of foreign fighters.  Nor economic sanctions.  Just stop writing checks.

Egypt’s democratic revolt

February 1, 2011

President John F. Kennedy once said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.The Egyptian protest demonstrations, which the protesters call the Days of Anger, may not strike the average American TV viewer as especially peaceful, but compared to what they could be, they really are.  What is going on in Egypt is the opposite of terrorism.

The anti-Mubarak forces are not tearing police and soldiers limb from limb.  They are not setting off bombs in government offices or shopping centers.  There aren’t any suicide bombers. Bodies of policemen and government officials are not hanging from lamp posts. Given the history of revolution, these are not things that can be taken for granted.  For their part, the Egyptian army announced late yesterday that it would not use force against nonviolent demonstrators.

Lenin’s Bolsheviks showed how a determined, murderous minority could seize and hold power through use of unrelenting force and propaganda and suppression of internal dissent.  Various Third World “national liberation fronts” that sprung up after World War Two took the Bolsheviks as a model.  They killed as many people among their own constituents to keep them in line as they did of their enemy.  Nothing like this is going on in Egypt.

Che Guevara and Regis Debray in their books on guerrilla warfare said that a revolutionary struggle could be ignited by a tiny group of terrorists (they didn’t call them that), provoking an over-reaction by government and drawing the masses into the struggle. These were the tactics of Osama bin Laden.  They are not the tactics of the current mass protests in Egypt.

Mass protests, especially nonviolent mass protests, are inherently democratic.  Leaders of mass protests have to gain and keep the confidence of the masses.  Their political power does not grow out of the barrel of a gun.  Rather it depends on stripping rulers of their power to make people obey out of respect for their authority and out of fear of their power.  It does not depend on killing police and troops, but on weaning police and troops from their allegiance.

Alex Madrigal of The Atlantic Monthly last Thursday published excerpts from a pamphlet distributed to Egyptian protesters that illustrates their nonlethal tactics.


Spreading democracy: a parable

May 14, 2010

The other night I had the following dream.

On my street there was a family who was really troublesome.  The father couldn’t hold down a job. The mother did a bad job of raising the children.  The children misbehaved.  They couldn’t budget.  They couldn’t maintain their property.  They couldn’t get along with each other or with neighbors. In short, the family was completely dysfunctional.

I decided it was my duty to help them get on the right path.  I knocked on the door, they wouldn’t answer, so I broke into the house at gunpoint.  The family resisted, and unfortunately a lot of furniture got broken in the process. I regret this, but obviously it wasn’t my fault.

I kicked the family out of the main bedroom, and moved all my stuff in. The next day I started telling them how to live, but for some reason they wouldn’t listen.  Instead they acted as if I was the problem.  I told them they couldn’t have access to the refrigerator or the pantry without my permission, and that got their attention.  Unfortunately by this time the refrigerator was broken.  I tried to fix it, but, perversely, they kept interfering with me.  Finally I had no choice but to shoot the oldest son.

I have been in the house a good many days now.  It is a great sacrifice on my part, but I believe in doing good to others.  As I tell the family, “Don’t blame me for your problems.  Your problem isn’t me. You problem is that you are dysfunctional. You don’t know how to live.  It is my duty to stay until you learn.”

Then I woke up.