Wednesday, 2 February 2011

When Democracy is Inconvenient

Hundreds of thousands of people are thronging the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan seeking the overthrow of dictators who have been in power for decades. Obama and other western leaders are unable to throw their weight behind the protestors. They offer platitudes to an orderly transition, but no one takes them seriously. The lesson learned from holding democratic elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which resulted in Hamas gaining power in the Gaza Strip, is still fresh in their minds.

The West wants to have a say in who holds power in the Arab world. It has all along wanted to. Earlier this was because of the Cold War. Now, it is on account of the War on Terror. And Oil. Oil more than anything else. All of these are selfish reasons, no doubt. It is possible that the persons or entities who gain power will not be Islamic fundamentalists. El Baradei is by no stretch of imagination a Taliban supporter. What of the Muslim Brotherhood? Islamic but not so fanatic, the Muslim brotherhood has been tolerated all along by Mubarak’s regime, though it is officially banned. The Muslim Brotherhood has been keeping a low profile, but is it behind the mobs at Tahrir Sqaure in Cairo? If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel will not be worth the paper on which it was written and signed.

It’s a bit late in the day to say this, but if only the West had insisted (right from the Cold War days) that Mubarak, Saleh and Ben Ali be less autocratic, less corrupt and spend more money on infrastructure and education, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I say ‘we’ because even I, notwithstanding my democratic ideals, am nervous that Islamic fundamentalists may come to power in North Africa, Yemen and Jordan.


Arun said...

There were strong secular movements in all these countries. It is the West that inserted the dictators for their own fun.

Also, a fundamentalist government like in Saudi Arabia is OK for the West, only a democratically elected fundamentalist government is a problem - because they may not obey the West. The problem is not fundamentalism or rights of women but only what the West wants.

Winnowed said...

Arun, what you say is entirely correct. However a democratically elected fundamentalist government could harbor the Al Qaeda. Look at Iran - though Shia, it supports the Afghan Taliban and even Hamas!