Obama Is Wrong. Democracy Is The Last Thing The Middle East Needs Right Now by David Harsanyi.
President Barack Obama gave a speech at White House’s “Countering Violent Extremism” summit yesterday crammed with predictable feel-good ideas for combating the imaginary root causes of (Islamic) extremism. And in the midst of arguing that radicalism was principally driven by anger over colonialism, illiteracy, and unemployment, Obama proposed an idea that we should have been abandoned trillions of dollars and many years ago: more democracy.
Here’s how the president laid it out in the Los Angeles Times:
Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies.
First of all, does Obama really believe that extremists have “legitimate grievances?” Are the disaffected youth recruited from the slums of Paris (but, curiously, not from the slums of Rio or Beijing) concerned that France doesn’t offer a strong enough civil society? Are the radicals beheading Christians in North Africa ticked off over a lack of women’s rights in Yemen? Are extremists who target Jews and free-speech enthusiasts in Copenhagen worried about the health of democratic institutions in Europe?
No, it’s the grievances themselves that are the root of the problem. In most Arab countries, the authoritarian leadership is in some ways more liberal than the majority of the citizenry. As bad as these regimes are – and we coddle and enable many of them – almost every time the democratic process has been tried in the Islamic world, it’s produced more extremism and factional violence. So which nation does the president propose would benefit most from more democracy? Pakistan? Iraq? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? How would Christians and Alawites fare in a democratic Syria, do you think?