Democracy Cannot Thrive In The Middle East

By Sal Bommarito

For many years, the U.S. has been trying to convince despotic regimes around the globe to bestow democracy on their subjects. For the most part, autocratic rulers either flat out reject or disregard the suggestion that every person on earth longs to be free and wants to elect his leaders.


Maybe democracy is not the best governmental system for some (or even most) nations. The reasons for this are numerous. For instance, in China and Russia, the differences (language and culture) between citizens along with distances between them would make it nearly impossible to conduct a fair national election. Communicating the positions held by candidates to all voters would be a monumental endeavor.


In other places, like the Middle East, educational limitations, tribal customs, and more importantly, religion make democracy a dream and not a reality. The Arab Spring made some westerners believe that humans may have an innate desire for self-rule. Rebellions occurred and regimes toppled. But, democracy, real democracy, did not materialize anywhere. Radical ideology filled the governmental vacuum and anarchy ensued. The importance of the separation of church and state has been in full bloom.


A Wall Street Journal article suggests that the passing of “strongmen” has led to the current tumultuous environment in the Middle East. Certainly, the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah after 20 years of leadership has inspired this assessment.


Frankly, the reign of strong, despotic rulers in the region resulted in a period of relative peace. Surely, some leaders have been cruel and ruthless and some cajoled (or bribed) their subjects to be cooperative. In any regard, radical Islam was contained for many years, or at least bottled up. Some say that this process resulted in a powder keg environment: the desire for stronger Islamic influence has exploded now that most of the strongmen are gone.


The list before Abdullah is long and includes: King Hussein- Jordan 47 years, Moammar Gadhafi- Libya 42 years, King Hassan- Morocco 38 years, Hosni Mubarak- Egypt 30 years, Hafez al Assad- Syria 29 years and Saddam Hussein- Iraq 24 years.


These men were not interested in democracy and proved that autocratic rule, at least in the Middle East, is the best way to keep the peace. True, some were very aggressive and all were able to temper the clergy. Perhaps a lesson to be learned from history is that democracy will never flourish in the Middle East.


Finally, we must consider how will the Middle East find peace? History suggests that peace will not be possible without very strong dictatorial leadership.

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