Monday, March 31, 2003[posted by jaed at 10:17 AM]
What went wrong:
Democracy requires elections, but elections are in some ways its least important element. A civil society - the web of rights, responsibilities, and expectations that binds people together into a political entity - is a necessary precondition for democracy, unless you're satisfied with the kind of degenerate "democracy"-in-name-only that holds elections where the approved candidate gets 100% of a 100%-turnout vote.
Amir Taheri writes about the destruction of Arab civil society in the wake of colonialism and de-colonization:
Anxious to protect its power and privilege, the Arab military elite adopted a nationalist discourse.[...] The military rulers did what they knew best: Wage war. They began by waging war against civil society with the aim of destroying all potential sources of alternative authority and legitimacy. They disarmed as many of the tribes as they could and executed, imprisoned, exiled, or bought most of their leaders.Taheri paints a picture of civil society attacked and destroyed from within. I've known about this sort of thing for a while, but this article pulls together the disparate facts into a full picture of the evolution of Arab society away from anything that can support democracy.
Next it was the turn of religious authorities to be brought under state control and deprived of the independence they had enjoyed for over 1,000 years.[...]
The army-backed state also annexed the educational system, nationalizing thousands of private Koranic schools and setting the curricula. The traditional guilds of trades and crafts, some with centuries of history behind them, were attacked and disbanded.