Arabs and Democracy

Megan McArdle–who, incidentally, is scheduled to appear on CNN/fn’s Market Watch at 9 a.m. Eastern–is upset at the charge that, because they’ve never had it, Arabs are somehow impervious to democracy and that Fallujah proves it.

Such statements are the logic of the mob–demonising others, about whom you know nothing, based on their group membership. Those workers weren’t killed because they were dangerous to Fallujah, or hurting its residents; they were there to build up its infrastructure. They were killed because the mob looked not at who they were, but what group they belonged to.


Such thinking should be anathema to conservatives, who are supposed to look at individuals, not groups. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “there is no society; there are individuals, and families.”

This is, of course, right on a fundamental level. I have little doubt that, in the course of time, Arabs will democratize and that, indeed, all of humanity will move in that direction. Indeed, if you’d asked me in the mid-1980s whether Latin America would be largely democratic within twenty years, I’d have thought it absurd–and it happened within ten years.

As Mikhail Gorbachev can attest, it’s nearly impossible to modernize the economic sector–which most of the Arab states are attempting–and not also modernize the political one. And the rapidity with which the people of even the most authoritarian regimes take to criticizing their officials and demanding yet more freedom is positively breathtaking.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.