It may be exported, but at least it‘s democracy (Khaled Fouad Allam, 10/31/05. Chiesa)

Today, whether one likes it or not, that world is changing, because the war in Iraq inaugurated what has been called “the American moment,” and it has brought to light the absence of any European political project on the great questions that are found across those societies.

Of course, this is the case of an “imperial democratization,” which is weighed down by some obvious errors: the unmaking of the structure of Iraqi society through the total dismantling of the old apparatus of the state connected to the Ba’ath party; a communitarian perception of the nation, according to which the “building policy” has begun from the presupposition of a society divided along ethnic and confessional lines.

But on second glance, these are errors that Europe probably would have incurred as well.

They are errors that Europe made in Iraq in 1921, with the British repression of the Shiite rebellion, because even back then the Shiites were already claiming rights to political participation. French and British colonialism always backed the Sunnis, because they had been the country’s élite for centuries, although they constituted a minority. And Arab nationalism perpetuated the situation.

But now all of that is gone, or is dying off, definitively. And it must be understood that the reversal underway will produce a large-scale effect in the Middle East and in the Arab world in general.

The pressure exerted on Syria by the United States has already obtained the abandoning of the Syrian protectorate over Lebanon. And this must not be separated from what has happened in Iraq. Both events are the product of a new phase of history, the slow decomposition of political authoritarianism in the Middle East. […]

While American “imperial democracy” has brusquely inaugurated a new era for the peoples of the Middle East, the left must foster an authentic way of looking at the civil societies of the Arab world, keeping in mind that these are not the same as the countries of Eastern Europe. Lebanon is not Ukraine, and the Arab world, oppressed by authoritarian dictatorships and regimes for over fifty years – and before then by the colonial regimes – has not had its Solzhenitsyn, it has not had its Gulag Archipelago, it has not been able to denounce to the world the barbarities it has suffered.

Of course, in the Arab world there was no system of concentration camps like in the Soviet Union. But many have personally paid the price of denouncing the absence of liberty. It must also be emphasized that Europe has rarely listened to the dissenting voices from that world, the voices crying out about the lack of freedom.

Of course, the question of the legitimacy of an act of war is being posed, and will always be posed. But that question does not freeze history; history continues forward. History is something too serious for one to be able to resolve it through a debate in which the favorable and contrary voices are balanced. The request by Hariri’s son to have the assassins of the former Lebanese prime minister judged by an international tribunal is a manifestation of a history that is changing. And even though Saddam Hussein’s trial is controversial, it will have a strongly cathartic effect on the collective Arab imagination. It will mean the restitution to the Iraqi people of their own history. For this reason, I maintain that it is important that the trial be conducted in Arabic.

Taking all this into consideration leads to the conclusion that democracy is not a luxury for some privileged peoples, and that the geopolitics of the Middle East is definitively leaving behind its configuration in the zones of influence that ensnared it during the twentieth century.

Sure, it’d be nice if Europe were more helpful in the process, but it ultimately doesn’t matter much.

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