The US toolbox for democracy

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If we want to describe the policy of the Bush administration in the Middle East, we need simply to invoke the words of the great British statesman Benjamin Disraeli: "He only had one idea, and that was wrong."

The plan of the neo-conservatives in Washington seemed simple, but essentially it was just too simplistic. It aimed to export democracy into countries in the region and via democracy achieve peace. They believed that by invading Iraq they would create a model country which would operate as an example for other nations. And so, using guns in Iraq and elections in other Arab states, they tried to make history.

A similar plan was successfully implemented in the democracies of Eastern Europe but the Middle East had some surprises in store. Iraq became the setting for a bloody war and elections in other countries were won by fanatical groups such as Hamas.

The problem with the strategy of the neo-conservatives is not what many maintain: namely, that democracy cannot be exported. It was exported to Japan. Neither is the problem that democracy does not sit well with the Arabs. Many promising democratic experiments in countries of the region were stopped by Western nations. The problem is that the neo-conservatives decided to export their toolbox for democracy rather than democracy itself.

Elections and parliaments do not constitute democracy. They are the mechanisms that facilitate democracy. But in order to function, they demand the approval of a social charter. If a country fails to accept that the majority governs, but is monitored, and that minorities deserve respect regardless of their ethnic origin and beliefs, then elections and parliaments are a weapon will which explode in the face of anyone who tries to use them.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 27/07/2006