Archive for the ‘Democracy and Freedom (or lack of)’ Category

Thanks to Harriet Green who shared this extraordinarily powerful viral video by Invisible Children about a campaign to stop Joseph Kony, a heinous murderer who has abducted tens of thousands of African children to join his army, often forcing them to murder their parents and dismember others as a rite of passage.  It is incredible that someone like this has been able to elude justice for decades!  He must be stopped.  I pledge to join the campaign.  I have forwarded the video to all my team members, made a donation, and requested their kit to post posters, and encourage you to do the same.  It is our duty as human beings.

And for activists and campaigners anywhere, this video is also a must-watch.  The organization and team putting this together is extraordinary.  This is one of the best campaigns I have witnessed ever.  Truly commendable and cutting edge.  Lots for us to learn about.

STOP KONY IN 2012!

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

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Jeffrey Goldberg writes in Was the Arab Spring a Victory for Extremism? that Mubarak warned him a dozen years ago, “"My people expect a firm hand. If we don’t lead strongly, they will turn to the mosque for leadership."  Goldberg concludes that it turns out Mubarak was right – that he was the only thing standing between Egypt and the rise of fundamentalist Islam. 

The above analysis is probably factually correct in the short and mid term. But it is the wrong or incomplete question or issue to focus on. 

The bigger question is what did Mubarak’s (and other equivalent dictators’) rule do and does to help those populations evolve into more democratic and tolerant societies? And does turning to Islam for guidance have to equate with a closed society? The dictators aggravate the push towards Islamist power, as well as the notion that their government and all it pretends to stand for is anything worth supporting.  In the short term, Mubarak put a cap on extremist groups that used Islamic tenets to justify their often intolerant views.  But at the same time, their very actions increased the pressure away from moderation in the long-term because they foster more resentment and more hatred of the ideologies supposedly espoused by the West that subjugated and oppressed them with injustice.

Just lifting the lid is not a workable solution, I agree.  It is not workable not just because it will put the Islamists in power.  If that is all it would do BUT the Islamists would respect democracy and permit elections and accountability and democracy in another round, then 4 years of pain would arguably be tolerable to start building true democracy rooted and buttressed by freedom and protection of minority interests, etc.  as any abuse of power (and closing of society) would probably be disliked by a majority of Egyptians.  But as they did in Iran, once in power, it is possible Islamists will then support “One Man, One Vote, One Time” as Bernard Lewis once wrote, and will then prevent future elections and the self-correcting power of democracy.

What is the answer? As sad as it may seem, it may well be SOME role for the military (or another enlightened ruler who oversees the military) to be the arbiter for fair government and elections – to ensure that the elected government will be accountable to the people and will accept defeat in future elections if they are not re-elected.  

Managing this process may be (and probably is) too much to ask of the military rulers, who above all want to protect their privileges and what amounts to essential control of the country.  But if you were to find a progressive military ruler or leader, or one that would have the vision and enticement to modulate a steady move towards accountable government, then Islamists could win one or two rounds of elections but be accountable to their people and unless they enacted the policies that will build a better future for their people, which I affirm requires openness and freedom, then they’d be voted out in the next round…or certainly within a generation. 

The question are a) whether we can have enough patience to wait at least one election cycle and possible a generation, and b) whether a force that can act as the right arbiter and selfless ensurer or democracy and openness and freedom will emerge and not be corrupted by power.

All of my thinking presupposes that people will ultimately price and covet freedom, justice, openness, respect, and democracy.  Is it possible that they will actually prefer the rule of a few clerics if given the choice? I guess so, but that is rather unlikely.  Is it possible that foreign policy will be far more aggressive against the US or Israel? Very likely, but it doesn’t have to remain that way as long as interests end up being aligned and the West and Israel end up working with respect with their counterparts.  It will be a painful correction process – and it all has to entail a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  But as a long term proposition, it seems to be the only way for true stability, peace, tolerance and respect to come about in the Middle East.

Is it possible that they will choose conservative policies that to many in the West will be abhorrent, subjugating women or minorities or people with sexual preferences they disagree? Yes.  But in the West, including here in the US, we also face all those challenges.  The key is to balance democracy with constitutional rights protected by a separate branch of government, and that will only come with time.

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The following article was shared with Daniel by his friend Fred.  It is an interesting analysis of Israel’s current state and the themes of Weimar that the author claims are showing their ugly head once more. 

 

 

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This Thomas Friedman article delineates the ways in which CITIGROUP has functioned immorally.  Of greater concern, this example is representative of a larger problem of expanding of injustice and corruption in the inseparable financial and political arenas.

Spotted by Daniel Lubetzky, by Adeena Schlussel

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Below is Tzippy Livni’s code of democratic values, based off of recent events in the Middle East, and decades of history:

Current events in the Middle East highlight the urgency of adopting at the global level what true democracies apply at the national level – a universal code for participation in democratic elections. This would include requiring every party running for office to embrace, in word and deed, a set of core democratic principles: the renunciation of violence and the acceptance of state monopoly over the use of force, the pursuit of aims by peaceful means, commitment to the rule of law and to equality before the law, and adherence to international agreements to which their country is bound.

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This weekend, President Obama addressed the AIPAC community at their annual Policy Conference.  The President reaffirmed America and Israel’s valuable friendship and discussed the pressing need for striking peace in the region.  Read the full remarks below.

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The most fundamental causes of the popular uprisings across the Arab world are of course peoples’ desire for freedom and rule of law, and their disgust at corruption and oppression.  Few times in history do totalitarian or authoritarian regimes successfully repress their people for more than two generations, and zero times in history do these regimes last much longer than that, relatively speaking.

And yet, what were the triggers to the Jasmine revolution? Was it Obama’s historic election and his speech in Cairo in 2009? Was it President Bush’s exhortation of democracy? Was it the Wikileaks? We know that the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi was the immediate trigger in Tunisia. But what made the population so ready to react with enormous support to kindle the historic street demonstrations and revolutions to spread across the Arab world?

Among the greatest contributors was the rise of food prices, which surged 40% in the preceding year.  More acutely, staples like rice and other core grains rose exponentially.  The surge in prices of essential commodities actually displaced a staggering number of people from middle class to poverty.  By some estimates, 40 million Arabs descended below poverty levels over the last two years because they could not afford food to put on the table. 

The biggest factor contributing to the rise in commodities and food prices is of course the growth of China.  As hundreds of millions of Chinese have improved their standard of living, this has put enormous pressure on natural resources, raw materials, and food basics, among others.

It is thus ironic that the greatest trigger to demand freedom in the Arab world was not the work of great democracies like the United States or France, but, unwittingly, the growth of a China, a country under the leadership of another totalitarian one-party regime.  The irony will close the cycle when the movement for openness boomerangs and catches up with Chinese repression.

Russia and China have maintained that people prize stability over freedom and that as long as the central State creates conditions for economic growth, people will be complacent and will be willing to literally sell away their rights.  In fact, this very economic growth will eventually catch up with these regimes.

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“The taste of freedom is very delicious"

- protester in Eastern province freed from Qaddafi’s megalomaniacal 40-year rule over Libya

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This article in the New York Times illustrates a picture of protesters in Tahrir Square and has great information about how non-violent movements organize themselves.

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The statement from President Obama below is masterful given all the challenges from the current circumstances.  It really is right on track!

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