Accuracy in Media

Is democracy really the solution to so many of the world’s problems?  According to Charles Krauthammer, since the Second World War we have lived through two great struggles, two stories of biblical proportion:  the Manichean struggle with western democracy versus global totalitarianism, and the rebirth of the Jewish State in its homeland for the first time in nearly two thousand years.  “One man that has not only been a witness, but a key player in this is Natan Sharansky.”  He began as “a voice in the wilderness,” and was author of the policy that in order “to achieve peace in the Middle East there must be a democratization of the parties.”

Natan Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Ukraine.  He was a notorious human rights activist in Russia as well as a dissident and spokesman for Soviet Jews.  Sharansky was convicted of “spying on behalf of the United States” in 1978 and spent the next 8 years at a Siberian gulag.  From Israel, his wife campaigned vigorously for his release.  Sharansky quickly became a symbol of human rights and was eventually released to go to Israel where he was greeted as a hero.  He currently serves in the Israeli Parliament as Deputy Prime Minister.  He argues that the way to overcome tyranny and terror is to spread freedom and democracy.

Sharansky outlines three main questions and seeks to answer them in making his case for freedom and democracy.

The Three Main Questions:

  1. Does everyone want democracy?

  2. Is democracy good for everyone?

  3. Can we enforce democracy?  Should that be our role?

Question 1:  Does everyone want democracy?

In 1945 Truman’s advisors said that there was no way Japan could be democratized.  The same went for Russia and Germany.  Oh how wrong they were.  According to Sharansky, we can “now say that history is on our side.”  Today there are 22 Arab countries, and “not one is democratic?my conviction that democracy is for everyone is not based only on history but how the mechanics of democracy work in connection with the mechanics of tyranny.”

There are three types of fear in society: true believers (fear of God), dissidents (they fear the government, a very important group), and double thinkers (those who side neither with the government nor its opposition, and whose self-serving and unpredictable loyalties can be de-stabilizing).  In a tyrannical society no dissent is tolerated.  In most Arab countries in the world today, dissent is not permitted.  “People from all over want to live in a society that permits dissent; this is a free society?to be able to say what you feel is such a relief.”  The ability to express dissent and rid yourself of a “huge weight on your shoulders” is a great freedom.  “This in the end explains why the Germans, Russians, Japanese, and Latin Americans have embraced democracy?because they prefer not to live under tyranny.”

Question 2:  Is democracy good for everyone?

The real question here has to do with stability, are there times when dictatorships are necessary allies?  To this Sharansky replies, “In the moment of war there can be some restrictions in spreading democracy, but in the total historical aspect it is worth it?look at what happened when the West tried to appease Hitler, and then later Stalin.”  It was convenient at the time but it soon escalated into global conflict.

Question 3:  Can we enforce democracy? Should that be our role?

The answer to this question is closely related to the answer to question two; it has to do with stability.  “There is no such thing as a peaceful dictator.”  You cannot rely on leaders who do not rely on their own people.  In order for a dictator to stay in power they must make it so that their people need them.  In a democracy it is completely the opposite, the leaders are dependent upon the people: keep the people happy and stay in power.

A very effective tool for dictators is the use of an enemy.  By fostering the threat of an enemy, and making his people feel the need for a protector, a dictator can keep them in check.  This way people are continually dependent upon a dictator.  “Once you succeed with creating an external enemy, you turn inward.”  This helps the dictator to maintain power.  It allows him to divert the people’s attention in order for him to combat his internal enemies.

Democracies generally don’t attempt this sort of manipulation, which is why they rarely go to war against other democracies.  People as a whole generally want to avoid war; they will often accept the worst possible compromise in order to do so.  “A democracy that hates you will probably not fight you, but a dictatorship can turn and hate you tomorrow.”  Societal stability depends on the toleration and understanding that democracies promote.  This is why we should enforce democracy, because our own security ultimately depends on it.

Tyranny and terror are equivalent in that they both rely on the same principles to maintain their power.  The only difference is that one’s parameters are within state boundaries and the other’s are within ideological boundaries.  The greatest weapon the free world has to combat tyranny and terror is freedom and democracy.

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