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July 3, 2006

The Case for Democracy

Natan Sharansky – ISBN 0892216441

For those who do not know--or remember--Sharansky was imprisoned in a Soviet Gulag for nine years as a “dissident” working for both the freedom of the Jews to emigrate, and for freedom for Soviet citizens. He was finally permitted to immigrate to Israel after years of effort by his wife and the United States, and now serves in the Israeli Knesset.

He presents potent arguments for the power of freedom, and the necessity of democracy. While “experts” doubt the success of democracy in the Middle East (never mind freedom), he brilliantly and unequivocally challenges the skeptics. The entire text is so laden with quotable material that I have to restrain myself from reviewing this magnificent treatise by quoting him. I can, however, recommend that you read it. Twice!

He divides the world into only two categories: free and fear societies, positing that there is nothing in between. A society which “does not protect dissent will inevitably be based upon fear. The mechanics of tyranny make this inescapable.”

Thus he describes the problems of all societies of fear, past and present. Freedom is a uniquely Western concept which is, under proper circumstances, applicable to all societies, albeit in unique ways for each. No culture is immune to Democracy.

He explores the origins of “doublethinkers” in fear societies, explaining that where no freedom of expression is permitted the thoughts of freedom are suppressed and the world sees what appears to be a society limited to “true believers.” Not the accurate picture, of course. And people terrorized over decades by the likes of Saddam Hussein are likewise not as content as they might seem; just afraid to register a complaint.

The intellectuals who were taken in by Stalin in the ‘30’s naively believed in communism’s alleged egalitarianism and were convinced that the Soviet’s were earnestly attempting to build their “new world” with its “new men.” Intellectuals refused to accept that reprehensible means were used to secure this hypothetical utopia, and “filtered their observations accordingly.” Amazingly, they still do!

“[A] country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors.” While the mechanics of a democracy makes it inherently peaceful, the mechanics of tyranny make nondemocracies inherently belligerent . . . often, to avoid collapse from within, fear societies maintain a state of conflict in perpetuity! There is implicit acceptance of the need for the dictator to protect. Ultimately, a democracy which hates you is far less dangerous than a dictator who loves you. It is the absence of democracy which is the real threat to peace.

Those fighting for human rights that do not distinguish between free and fear societies will be shorn of a moral compass. When the voice of the people can be heard, the chances of war are greatly diminished.

Too many in the West fail to acknowledge the moral difference between free and fear societies. Still, the free world cannot afford to await the spontaneous evolution of the dictatorial regimes. A “community of free nations will not emerge on its own.” Rather, it will take both the clarity of moral purpose, and the courage to confront fear societies everywhere . . . and only the United States can (and must) inspire this.

In the world of fear the challenge is finding the strength to confront evil. In the world of freedom the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil. Archimedes observed that those who wish to move the earth must first have a place to stand. Moral clarity provides that place.

There are people within the fear societies who would like change. The West must recognize, applaud and support them to help them prevail over their nondemocratic regimes. Not by choice will these cultures change. There is no end to history. Rather, the world’s diversity will continue and disagreements will always exist, but there can be an end to lasting tyranny, and we can live in a world where no regime which attempts to crush dissent will be tolerated. “Slavery has been all but wiped off the face of the earth, so too can government tyranny become a thing of the past.”

Posted by respeto at July 3, 2006 3:50 PM