I recently happened to criticize Western-style democracy, and my Italian friends objected: “We don’t get any complaints about democracy!” I think it’s a taboo—an notion of recent decades during which Western-style democracy has become a kind of sacred cow.
It was no taboo for the esteemed democrat Winston Churchill. Everybody is familiar with his famous aphorism: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Oddly enough, it is often construed to mean the nastiness of undemocratic regimes should make people forget about the insidious nature of democratic regimes. Meanwhile, Churchill did not praise democracy. He believed it to be the least bad form of government, but he believed it is bad nevertheless—the form of government least alien to mankind, but still one that is alien. Here’s another quote from Churchill that shows what he meant by his aphorism: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” It’s clear why: voters have a great deal to complain about in a democracy.
These thoughts were prompted by questions from some Western visitors to the Institute of CIS Countries about the likelihood that democratic institutions will develop in Kazakhstan. They wanted to know whether there is a road map for introducing Western-style democratic institutions there. I usually don’t discuss topics like that: it’s futile. But the Institute’s visitors were rather high ranking diplomats. I know from experience that Foreign Ministry officials from any Western capital are better informed than journalists or members of parliament; and more to the point, they are more pragmatic, realistic and less ideological. Therefore, I wanted to say: “Stop, gentlemen! Surely you’re not asking a serious question!” Among the dozens, or probably hundreds, of Western diplomats I’ve dealt with for decades, negotiated with, discussed all kinds of questions with, and talked with in an official capacity or as a friend, not a single one has ever spoken of Western-style democracy as a system to emulate. Then came the question from a deputy foreign minister about the prospects of democratic institutions developing in Kazakhstan.
I’m not opposed to that kind of question on principle. It’s a reasonable question. It was the way he stated it that was unreasonable; it had nothing to do with what Western democracy is. For all the indisputable achievements of Western civilization, the high standard of living it has provided and the decent job it has done developing democratic mechanisms, a great many evils are inherent in Western democracy.
The first and most dangerous evil is that it is aggressive. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western democracies have been constantly starting and executing military operations. And they have not just been doing it for self-defense, as stated in Articles 3 and 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty; nor have they limited themselves to the North Atlantic, as specified by Article 6. They fought a war in Yugoslavia, a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan and a large-scale military operation in Libya. They have made military threats against Syria and shaken their fists at Iran for several years now. The reasons may have been different, but the method used to solve problems has been the same—the threat of military force and war. The most striking thing is that Western public opinion does not doubt for a second that Western-style democracy is the most amicable way for society to be organized. It’s not something that gets discussed. It’s an axiom. It’s a devilish axiom, of course. it turns the basic concepts of international reality upside down—sort of like the Orwellian “war is peace” and “peace is war.” Because no single country would carry out as many armed military interventions as Western countries do.
Their argument is that it is all done to spread Western-style democracy. From the same arsenal and for the same declared purpose, we have interference in the internal affairs of other countries, exploitation of the natural and inevitable dissatisfaction part of a population feels towards its situation, the creation of instability, and the instigation and organization of anti-government street demonstrations and general chaos that paralyze government and contribute to a regime change the West likes. There are no countries other than Western democracies that would be directly involved in organizing internal strife in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. It doesn’t matter what they’re called—whether “color revolutions” or the “Arab Spring.” The West is always involved. We thought the name of Leon Trotsky had fallen into oblivion, but Western countries have put his idea of ‘permanent revolution’ into action. When international law had to be abandoned in order to do it, Western democracies had no problem adopting the right of the powerful. Clearly, they currently have the largest military force, but the generally accepted norms of international law, such as the need to respect the sovereignty of states, restrain the West’s militancy. We all owe Western democracies for the fact that the international community today has no generally accepted rule of law.
The combination of aggression and starry-eyed idealism is astonishing. I can well believe my Belgian friend is sincere in being disturbed by Hosni Mubarak’s intention to make his son his successor. However, a Western-style democracy cannot be established in Egypt. Democracy cannot differ from what the public envisions. Introduced like a gift from Western Magis planted in unprepared soil, it risks regression on a broad front, chaos, savagery, devastation and looting. Is it any wonder that not a single color revolution has succeeded! The West, which developed democracy naturally over the course of many centuries through ups and downs, deprivation and prolonged stagnation, suddenly comes to believe that the East must adopt it as soon as possible by following the Western media’s road map. The shortcut effect is a serious disease in the West’s thinking about democracy. They fail to consider how much it costs in human lives to change a country’s natural course of events by interfering in its internal affairs, instigating color revolutions and pursuing military interventions. Hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Libya have been killed for the sake of a bright future.
They also conceitedly deny other, non-Western, political traditions and concepts of freedom and human societal norms. That is a time bomb planted under relations between the East and the West. In addition to the natural rejection that Western arrogance elicits everywhere in the East, Western democracies also have a number of intrinsic flaws that cause them to be rejected on principle. The increasingly atheistic Western democracies have elevated success in a career or business as the main criterion by which a person is judged. They have become accustomed to immorality and preoccupied with sex, and they promote cruelty and violence.
Questions also arise about comprehension of democracy, and that brings up the topic of elections. The dividing line between democracy and non-democracy comes under the heading of “sovereignty,” which in a democracy is vested in the citizen. That is, elections are only democratic when the person making a choice is an educated and responsible bearer of sovereignty, and not someone who has been deceived by the media and political strategists. Elections in the West today are an overt game of campaign methodologies.
Another Western vice is the shrunken information space. The media increasingly provides less in the way of information and more in the way propaganda. Look: thousands and thousands of journalists write and say the same thing in the United States and Europe about foreign policy, the Arab spring, Syria, Iran and the December demonstrations in Russia. They present a monolithic front like the press in the Soviet Union.
Even more importantly, Western democracies prefer to avoid economics. It’s as though they don’t care that whole countries are living beyond their means and have huge public debts and inflated financial bubbles, or that trust in the euro and the dollar has plummeted. So now the United States and the EU are unable to stabilize the financial sector where they are undeniably responsible and the primary ones concerned with stabilization.
China has been the country with the highest rate of economic growth for decades, not the Western democracies. I am not sure that is evidence of the best system of government. But I am convinced that Western democracies are far from the best option and not something to idolize.
Source: New Eastern Outlook