2005 March 18 Friday
Will Democracy Make Middle East Governments More Anti-American?

Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, in responding to questions and criticisms from readers, notes that the replacement of dictatorships with democracies in the Middle East may well produce democratic governments that are far more opposed to US policies than the elites in charge of current that will be replaced.

Your question about what would Bush do if democratic forces in the Middle East attempt to defy American interests is very much to the point. Indeed, it is the question of U.S. policy in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

President Bush said today that tyrants become fearful in the face of democracy. Those "tyrants" (in the case of Egypt and Saudi Arabia) are also reliable American allies who do not cross U.S. policymakers when it comes to oil and Israel. If they are replaced by more democratic but more anti-American governments, what will the U.S. do? Its a very good question.

Democratically elected governments will simultaneously find it easier to resist American demands. At the same time they will find it harder to give into American demands as they will feel pressure to respond to popular wishes in order to remain in office. How will this trend affect US national security? Will these nations with democratically elected governments be better or worse breeding grounds for terrorists and for radical Islamists that help create the environment that breeds terrorism? I'm guessing democratically elected governments will give greater leeway to the radical Islamic clerics and some of those clerics and their followers will make it into government.

A recent poll found that 49% of Lebanese see US influence in the world as mainly negative versus 33% who see it as positive. Muslim and democratic Turkey puts US influence as 62% negative and 18% positive and Muslim and democratic Indonesia sees the US at 51% negative and 38% positive.

Parenthetically, even though our elites have allowed tens of millions of Mexicans to enter and live in the US legally and illegally and the government has granted citizenship to tens of millions and to their children 57% of Mexicans see the US as a negativee influence on the world and only 11% see the US as positive. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt and resentment. Why don't we try to make the Mexicans a lot less familiar with us by deporting all the illegals and building a barrier on the US-Mexican border to keep them out?

Speaking of democratic processes that do not always produce pro-American or pro-capitalist governments, Steve Sailer observes that the trend in Latin American democracy is running in a very leftist and anti-market direction.

The Tidal Wave of Capitalist Democracy is so ten years ago in Latin America, where leftism is on the rise again ... democratically, of course, while the pro-capitalists are reduced to searching for non-democratic means to prevent leftists from winning elections. In Mexico, Fox conspires with his former enemies in the PRI to find a technicality to prevent the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador, from running for President in 2006 on the PRD ticket. In Venezuela, the Bush Administration backed a military coup that briefly overthrew the Fidelista president Chavez, until people power in the streets intimidated the military into saying, "Never mind."

As I pointed out in my review of "Hotel Rwanda,' when George W. Bush says "democracy" he actually means, in effect, "Anglo-Saxonism:" in other words, rule of law, checks and balances, independent judiciary, a settled distribution of property, free speech, an open economy, habeas corpus, graciousness in defeat, the urge to compromise, gentlemanly treatment of women, etc.

But what people in oppressed countries hear when he says "democracy" is "majority rule," which is not the same thing.

This difference is missed in most efforts made to measure the prevalence of democracy in the world. For some measures of the difference see the UN Human Development Report 2002 (2.7 Megabytes in PDF format or individual chapters can be downloaded separately - my own experience is that if you download a large PDF to your hard disk and then open it the viewing is faster). For example, check out Figure 1.3 on Acrobat Reader page 30 where between 1980 and 2000 the press in Latin America on average did not become any more free even though Latin America became more democratic over that period of time. Then move forward to page Acrobat Reader page 54 (or document page 38) for the table "A1.1 Subjective indicators of governance". Compare entries in it to Acrobat Reader page 56 (document page 42) entries in table "A1.2 Objective indicators of governance". The A1.1 table has political liberties ratings including press freedom and the A1.2 has measures of how recently elections were held and what the turn-outs were. The press freedom score ranges from 0 to 100 where lower is better. Sri Lanka had a 2001 election with 80% turn-out but has a press freedom score of only 74. By comparison the US and Canada both scored 15 by UN reckoning and Norway scored 5. Granted, any measure of press freedom is imperfect. But the gap between Sri Lanka and Western democracies is huge. On civil liberties where lower is better Sri Lanka scored 4 while most of the Western countries (the US included) scored 1. Well, democracy is not automatically providing Sri Lankans with press freedom and civil liberties protection. I predict it will not do so for Iraqis either.

Democracy is not going to turn the people of the world into Anglo-Saxons. There's an old saying that is applicable to those feeling happy about the spread of democracy: Be careful what you wish for. You may just get it.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 March 18 12:28 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

gcochran said at March 18, 2005 3:37 PM:

I wrote this to a friend on February 5, 2003:

" We have people in the Administration, and their creatures in the press,
telling us that we're going to make Iraq into a succesful democracy. Ha. If
they believe that, they're only proving that weed is a lot stronger than it
used to be. Coupled with this is the notion that democratic Arab governments
would be happy playmates of Israel: wrong. Democratic Arab governments would
be more of a threat to Israel than the current dictators and military
autocracies. Take Egypt for example: Mubarak knows that his army can't
beat Israel, he knows who puts the money in his Swiss bank account. A
popularly elected leader might not know those things, and a popular
government might be less corrupt, might result in greater economic growtth,
might make Egypt something of a regional power - which does not help

The Arabs don't like Israel, and it isn't just a misunderstanding. If
they understood Israel and the Israelis better, they'd hate them more. "

GUYK said at March 18, 2005 4:10 PM:

If by democracy we mean majority rule then democracy in the mid-east will not help the cause of freedom as we in the USA know. Democracy is nothing more than tyrany by the majority and it appears that the majority want Islamic law which does not provide for freedom. However, if Iraq can agree on a constitutional republic that protect the rights and freedoms of all then other countries might follow suit. Will they line up behind the USA? I doubt it. Very few other countries do, why should they. However, I do suspect they will line up in whatever directions their economic interests point and the USA could be part of the direction. The oil exporters could well be the "king makers"and play the USA against China and India.

As a side thought-do you think the USA would have really cared about Saddam if not for the oil reserves? A crash program is needed to come up with an alternative to petroleum. No oil, no money, no money, no weapons for agression. Problem solved.

Daveg said at March 18, 2005 4:22 PM:

Well, the Bush admin would have cared even if Iraq did not have oil as they were really interested in making the middle east safe for Irsael, not in obtaining oil per se (or in making America more safe).

This is made clear by are current posturing towards Syria, which has no oil.

This is not to say the hawks in the Bush admin don't see the oil as something they can use to further their aims. The oil just wasn't their focus.

Proborders said at March 18, 2005 6:31 PM:

Randall, "Illegal migrant crackdown leaves Malaysia short of workers" is posted here.

If all illegal aliens in the US were deported, would there be a labor shortage in the US? Possibly. However, that doesn't mean that illegal aliens should be granted amnesty. Generally speaking illegal aliens should be deported.

If the US economy really needs guest workers or immigrants, prospective guest workers and/or immigrants should be required to meet minimum standards in order to receive an immigration visa. Also immigration from Mexico should be restricted so that no more than 10 percent of new immigrants are from Mexico. The 10 percent maximum is generous since Mexico has about 2 percent of the world’s population.

TangoMan said at March 18, 2005 10:00 PM:


Any change of status quo always causes disruptions. If all illegals were deported, and if the political will was there to stay the course, then what would follow would be a number of rebalancings/redistributions. For instance, some cheap labor would be replaced with machinary, some labor would increase in cost, some industries would leave the country, taxes would decrease because we wouldn't be financing millions of net tax recipients, there would be greater disposalable income to spend creating more demand, more young black men would find jobs, etc . . but all of this would play out over a few years.

This would be the same effect as we saw with globalization . . the rationalization of factors to the new conditions took many years. New rules of the game will create new strategies.

Ben said at March 19, 2005 10:34 AM:

Democracy is mob rule which reminds me of the French Revolution and the reign of terror. But smart people know that democracy doesn't last long. It almost immediately becomes an oligarchy of some type. That's because people are not equal in any meaningful sense and certain types of people usually end up on top.

Robotics can do wonders in replacing cheap labor. Let's give it a try!

crush41 said at March 19, 2005 11:20 AM:

"Hotel Rwanda,' when George W. Bush says "democracy" he actually means, in effect, "Anglo-Saxonism:" in other words, rule of law, checks and balances, independent judiciary, a settled distribution of property, free speech, an open economy, habeas corpus, graciousness in defeat, the urge to compromise, gentlemanly treatment of women, etc.

In 1500, no one, including Anglos, had any of this. I don't think the feudal lords in England saw any of this coming, but here we are today. Echo that in Korea, where no more than a century and a half ago all of the above was absolutely alien, but now at least the first half of that list is as present there as it is in the US. Isn't it more a question of time than of the dichotomous "can happen here", "can't happen there" scenario?

gcochran said at March 19, 2005 1:54 PM:

Probably both. The seeds of Anglo-Saxonism existed in England in as early as 600 AD: "The basis of Kentish society in Aethelbert's time was the free-peasant landholder, without any claim to nobility, but subject to no lord below the king himself, an independent person with many rights. Throughout early English history, society seems to have rested on men of this type. As head of a family, he was entitled to compensation for the breaking of his household peace. If he were to be slain, the killer had to compensate his kinfolk and also pay the king. "

This kind of society is what makes a free country. Nothing like that ever happend in the Middle East: you saw it repeatedly in Europe. Why? Thousands of years of bad luck?

GUYK said at March 19, 2005 3:47 PM:

DAVEG: Actually I agree about the oil. I don't really believe it would be in the best economic interests of independent American oilmen ( Bush's supporters ) for 3,000,000 plus barrels of 40 gravity sweet Iraqi crude to hit the daily spot market! Prices would surely drop. I have read reports that a fully developed Iraqi oil reserves could nearly equal the output of Saudi Arabia. This would be good for the Iraqis, good for the major oil companies that produce and market the crude, and in the long run we the consummer. But it would cost the independent American producer money.

Stephen said at March 19, 2005 6:52 PM:

Apropos to the anglo-saxon and foreign worker sub-discussions, the "saxon" part of "anglo-saxon" refers to German mercenaries hired by the British to help secure the border with Scotland following the withdrawal of the Roman legions.

Unfortunately for the British, they suffered an economic recession (probably part of a global recession brought on by the collapse of the Roman empire) and they couldn't keep up their payments to the Saxon mercenaries. In response, the Saxons went on a rampage and looted the countryside, then they decided to bring their relatives over from Germany and eventually they settled down to raise families. Soon the Saxons controlled most of the British lowlands.

PS: None of it happened instantly, but over a century or more.

PPS: Within a short time in historical terms, they merged with each other.

PPPS: Then the Normans invaded.

PPPPS: Within a short time in historical terms, they merged....

Shy Guy said at March 20, 2005 4:42 AM:

Here's what democracy will bring to Egypt:


Nothing new under the sun.

Daveg said at March 20, 2005 8:43 AM:

Interesting comment on neocons, oil and Iraq here.

crush41 said at March 20, 2005 1:57 PM:

Interesting comment on neocons, oil and Iraq here.

So Feith and the gang dragged the US into war to weaken Palestinian sympathizers and keep Samaria and Judea in the hands of their historical owners, but they have failed so bad that Bush is now *pushing* the creation of a Palestinian state (as Wolfowitz has advocated prior to the Iraq invasion)? And the old guarde (Cheney, Rumsfeld, and co.) does not mind this? Not challenging, just looking for clarification.

Daveg said at March 20, 2005 3:17 PM:

C41, I am not sure I follow the logic steps from the cite I provided to the conclusion you come to?

My understanding is that the two state solution is preferred by Israel over a one state solution. And of course the law of return is off the table, so that is basically everything Israel wants, no?

Is there a zero state solution that anyone is talking about seriously?

tim said at March 20, 2005 6:48 PM:

From Japan Today:
The role of UNHCR is to dump 3rd worlders on developed nations. Japan is respected for maintaining its cultural identity. Western nations are forced to dilute their culture and industrial abilities so American businesses can compete.

GUYK said at March 21, 2005 7:18 AM:

TIM : ummmm. I don't suppose that the report took into consideration that the percentage of black students expelled were also the percentage of the black students who were trouble makers. I am not convinced that race had a damn thing to do with it. I had rather believe that the sub-culture within the black community that defies authority, has no respect for property rights, and figures that an education is a 'white thing' is the reason for the expulsion.

By education I am a teacher. But, there is not enough money in the world to pay me to put my life in jeopardy in a class room of hooligans-black, white, yellow, or purple! Jail is the answer for most of these young hoods, not expulsion from school.If they are illegal-deport them. If they are not illegal then jail them! It doesn't cost much more for a reform school then it does for a public school and society will be a heck of a lot safer.

Randall Parker said at March 21, 2005 2:18 PM:

Message to the guy who posts as Tim, Eugene, and Justin: Stop posting complete copyrighted articles in comments. Also, stop posting articles that have NOTHING to do with the post you are putting comments into. I will delete those messages.

GUYK, I deleted the post you are responding to because it was so completely off topic. However, Tim/Eugene/Justin (not sure what his real name is) also posted that same news article in in this post and I left it there. Though I edited it down so it didn't violate copyright law.

KAW said at March 21, 2005 8:19 PM:

I find it interesting that so many folks carp about illeagal immigration without ever considering why folks come here - as if somehow that doesn't matter. People (yes they are people, not work units or animals) come here illegally because they are fleeing poverty and/or oppression not because of cheap pizza or our "freedoms". Look, walls and fences don't work unless, god forbid, you're ready to enforce the message by killing people who enter illegally. Want to stop illegal immigrants? Help fix the economies of places like Mexico with something that helps the little guy (the ones that come illegally) rather than jokes like NAFTA or CAFTA that just put more money in the pockets of the well-healed(on both sides of the border).

Randall Parker said at March 21, 2005 8:53 PM:


We can't fix all the economies of the nations where illegals come from. We do not have enough control over those societies to do it. Besides, there are reasons those places are messed up (e.g. average IQ) that are not amenable to change.

As for why people come here: To make more money of course. If you go back into my archives you can find I've written on this and most of my readers understand it. So you are not telling us anything we don't already know. The illegals are willing to work for less than native born because minimum wages in the US are much higher than what they can get at home. Employers like cheap labor. But the rest of us then pay more for police, jails, courts, Medicaid for their kids, emergency room care for the illegals, education for their kids, and so on.

Yes, walls and fences do work. First off, they intimidate a lot of people out of even trying to cross the border. Second, the barriers slow down people who are trying to cross, providing time for border control agents to apprehend anyone trying to make the passage.

Israel has a substantial enough barrier around the Gaza Strip that terrorist attacks from Gaza into Israel almost never happen. The Israelis are repeating this barrier construction around the West Bank but have been entirely too slow about it and this has cost a lot of Israeli lives. We could build a layered barrier along the US border with Mexico. The cost of a border barrier to keep out illegals would be less than what US taxpayers pay per year for medical care for illegals.

Bob Badour said at March 26, 2005 6:04 PM:


To amplify on what Randall posted, have you ever considered that leaving the most ambitious and daring in Mexico to start businesses and build the economy is perhaps the best way to improve the situation there?

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