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    I think not, I wrote about this a few weeks ago and was wondering what every1 elses' ideas on the topic was. Anyway this pretty much somes up my ideas:

    (its pretty long)

    It is well worth remembering that democracy in its present form: universal suffrage, has only been present (I speak only of in the UK) for eighty years, it is within the life time of some that British women could not vote, however Britain has been a constitutional democracy for two hundred years previous and had a parliament of significance (that could manage aspects of government away from the monarch) a further 500 years previous with the signing of the Magna Carter. In all we are talking of a 700 year gestation period for democracy in the UK, yet we believe democracy can be imposed by military force within a decade perhaps?

    Another point to bear in mind when dealing with democracy is the fact that primarily the reason democracy evolved over the seven hundred year period is that the people wanted it. That is not to say other countries (dictatorial or totalitarian) do not want democracy but at each concession made by absolutist monarchs to the progressive grow of parliamentary power it was due to the mobilisation of the people overpowering the sovereignty of the monarch, they would not accept and were willing to die for the points of principle or expedience that marked the journey to a parliamentary democracy. It was through determined tweaking that parliamentary democracy progressed so that the people of the nation began to consolidate there rights, laws and liberties until it starts to demand its conclusion in the form of democracy. I do not believe democracy is a one size fits all solution: it must be organic to the country.

    In theory, also democracy is not inherently the best form of government: an enlightened dictator is presumably the ideal. Someone who is not held ransom to the party politics, personal debts or corporate interests that leaders of capitalist democracies are held. When one looks at the history of the Roman Empire the most widely considered period of prosperity was the Pax Romana of the five good emperors from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius, when compared in contrast to the dying years of the roman republic when political self interest took its toll and plunged the republic into civil war. It could be argued that the above point does not apply so much due to the very limited suffrage enjoyed by the populace under the roman republic, however for democracy to even be effective it usually relies on one person or party to be dominant in order for policy to be driven through the parliamentary machinery, if all sides are to be equal then due to party politics naturally the political scenery would stagnate and no legislature would be able to be concluded. It is no surprise that the most competent prime ministers in terms of driving through policy have also been the most dominant in terms of both their party and representation in parliament, prime examples in recent history being Blair and Thatcher. Obviously I will not try to argue the case of a government of enlightened dictators, there is more likelihood of finding a virgin in a whorehouse but it is worth reminding oneself that there are alternatives to democracy that although might not be applicable or palatable to us may be more suitable to conditions in other countries (for example in Iraq argument has been made for Sadam Hussein's presence thwarting terrorism and at least providing some kind of order - if not law - that now sadly is not present). This dictator or totalitarian may provide more of the rights, laws and liberties in a manner that although not ideal would not be possible at all if a foreign army were to try to impose them (again Iraq being the obvious example).

    Following on from the above point one must also be wary of the effects of the failure of a democracy imposed on a country. In countries where there is no clear majority to dominate the democratic scene the stagnation as stated above appears. This is most dangerous in times immediately after regime change where the stagnation is the exact antithesis to the energetic response to the problems posed that is both desired and required. Prime examples of this are in both Post WW1 Germany when Hitler took power after the indecisive Weimar Republic lacked the power and/or leadership after Stresemann's death to deal with the growing influences of German nationalism, communism and of course the consequences of the wall street crash. Similarly the situation in Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe is so obviously non-democratic that further comment is hardly needed. Both post WW1 and post-colonial Zimbabwe being case-in-points of where the implementations of blueprint democracy - that which is arbitrarily imposed over a country - have lead to further heart ache.

    In essence my argument is such that the noble intention to help countries develop democracy by deposing a dictator or by international intervention is not necessarily the best modus operandi for the long term stability of a democratic country. Democracy can only develop under an environment of free speech that gradually demands the rights, laws and liberties that we should all be able to take for granted. Universal suffrage would not have been possible without habeas corpus, catholic emancipation or a free press. If free speech and liberty are not as normal to a population as eating and breathing how can one expect them to then engage in the lively political debate and then the continued protection of free speech and liberty that is required to maintain their democracy. Surely it is much more pragmatic and ultimately more rewarding to focus our resources on working towards the free speech and liberty of citizens so that they might build a democracy themselves than to ad hoc instil a democracy that stands no chance of survival in an adverse climate. Surely, also, it is liberty and free speech that makes democracy so appealing, not the other way round. When one looks at modern Germany in comparison to the Weimar and Nazi periods one sees a distinct difference, due primarily to the post WW2 West German government using a policy of relative free speech combined with the rule of law. This gestation period was obviously backed by substantial and continued military support in the form of NATO and also market driven support in the form of capitalist companies. This brings me finally to my point: unless the west is in for the long haul i.e. at least fifty years of a substantial military force ensuring the rule of law while the government (which I believe should hold gradually increasing powers) ensures freedom of speech and liberty: it should not engage in explicit regime change, it should instead use more subtle methods such as diplomacy, economic sanctions and incentives that would not destabilise the country to the same degree as a power vacuum left by a leaving army would. This is not to say that short term military intervention should not be used at all, there is a moral obligation in the face of genocide and such crimes to intervene but in such cases it may be prudent to ensure that the diplomatic influence is substantial enough post-pullout that free speech and liberties will not be infringed in the foreseeable future.
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    The institutions that accomodate a democratic process should not be implemented; the hallmarks of consitutional liberalism, seperation of church and state, civilian control of the military, freedom of press and association should all be encouraged.
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    Democracy is indeed the worst form of government except all the others, but it should NEVER be imposed. To use force to create a system of government which relies entirely upon the goodwill of its electorate and their desire to choose their own leaders is impossible. It may, however, be possible to create a puppet democracy which is not, in truth, freely elected, since undesirable candidates are prevented from running. It is also important to remember that not all non-democracies mistreat their citizens, and in these cases in particular, it is far more sensible to allow democracy to evolve. As the OP rightly pointed out, a benevolent dictator is in theory better for everybody, although a dictator who truly represents ALL of their people is, of course, impossible.
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    Democracy only works (and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word) when the population is relatively homogeneous in the first place; not necessarily racially, but more in terms of a shared political culture.

    The case in point against democracy being imposed in countries where this is not true is Iraq. We put 3 major cultural groups who hate each other's guts in a situation where whoever has the majority has the power, and wonder why we see extreme abuses of human rights (even by elements in the government like the police) by the Shia majority.
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    Democracy only works if people want it and are willing to stand up for their right to democracy. So it can't really be imposed.
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    Democracy comes from the bottom up. It can't be imposed on a country that isn't ready for it, and when this is attempted, it doesn't work. What do I mean by "ready"? Well, a level of political awareness and interest would help (for instance, a level comparable to that in Turkey), otherwise apathy will allow dictatorial ways to return.
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    (Original post by Agent Smith)
    Democracy comes from the bottom up. It can't be imposed on a country that isn't ready for it, and when this is attempted, it doesn't work. What do I mean by "ready"? Well, a level of political awareness and interest would help (for instance, a level comparable to that in Turkey), otherwise apathy will allow dictatorial ways to return.
    Would you say Russia is 'ready'?
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    (Original post by shaf90)
    Would you say Russia is 'ready'?
    Not sure. It has been, in the past; at the turn of the Twentieth Century many Russians were quite politically active and aware. But today? Most seem happy to accept everything the government tells them, which is exactly what democracy does not need if it is to take root and flourish.
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    (Original post by Agent Smith)
    Not sure. It has been, in the past; at the turn of the Twentieth Century many Russians were quite politically active and aware. But today? Most seem happy to accept everything the government tells them, which is exactly what democracy does not need if it is to take root and flourish.
    To add to that, many Russians didn't seem to mind Communist rule and did not rejoice it ending the same way other countries did, for example say, East Germany
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    Only societies deemed ready for democracy are worthy of the time and expense required to establish a democracy there. The Islamic world, for example, is not ready for democracy - it's social and poltical development seems to be about four hundred years behind our own. Consequently, the most we can hope and strive for in these countries are enlightened despots such as Mushareef or Mubarak willing to accomdate the interests of the West whilst educating their populace and stamping down on Islamic extremism.

    Somewhere such as Burma, however, seems more ready for democracy - as does North Korea. Radical religious fundamentalism is a key factor in limiting democracy and East Asia is, in this respect, quite a promising region. Unfortunately, neither of the countries previously mentioned were as strategically valuable or militarily weak as Iraq, hence the US's invasion of there.
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    To add to that, many Russians didn't seem to mind Communist rule and did not rejoice it ending the same way other countries did, for example say, East Germany
    What a crap example...
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    Why should a government, such as the Chinese determine what their citizens read on the internet about the Tiananmen Square massacre, and why should they be allowed to worship without having their church demolished by the state.
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    (Original post by BJ-Dubois)
    Only societies deemed ready for democracy are worthy of the time and expense required to establish a democracy there. The Islamic world, for example, is not ready for democracy - it's social and poltical development seems to be about four hundred years behind our own.
    You talk about the 'Islamic world' as if it's a homogeneous entity. Countries with a Muslim-majority population vary greatly, with prominent stable secular democracies such as Turkey on the one hand and states such as Afghanistan, where democracy is as familiar a concept as the separation of mosque and state.


    As to the OP, I don't think democracy should be imposed on other societies through military means, but it should be strongly recommended.
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    I agree with DJR in principle that civil liberties and freedom of speech are as essential to our existance as eating and breathing i think tho that is due to the culture we've been brought up in.

    I was watching the politics show on BBC 1 a while ago and it had leo tolstoy's granddaughter on, god knows why, but they were asking her about the feeling in russia after the alexander litvinenko poisoning and when the US put missiles into Poland was it? Basically it was how the russian's felt about the authoritarian regime and international relations.

    Anyway she said that primarilly it wasnt civil liberties (as putin is obviously infringing on these) that was a major issue and infact the average russian on the street was glad that they had a strong leader such as putin after the relatively inglorious years of yeltzin's rule.

    I dunno maybe its sort of like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in that basic stages need to be passed in order to progress onto the relatively free societies that we enjoy in the west. So perhaps you'd start with a need for security, then order, then prestige of the nation and then individual mobility within society that can only be ensured if citizens are free and equal in the eyes of the law and goverment.

    Perhaps a little simplistic and probably biased tho
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    The form of government most suitable for a given country depends on a bewildering array of factors - not what someone in another country thinks would be nice because it works for them.

    Let's try naming a few of these factors:
    - Political awareness of the people
    - Militancy of the people
    - Cultural composition and history
    - Level of economic development
    - Religiosity of the people
    - Income equality

    It's just impractical to impose democracy on a country which is not suited to it. Iraq is an absolute mess, for example. Something which Iraq lacks is cultural homogeneity (the historic animosity between Sunni and Shia is very deep - like Northern Ireland but on a bigger scale) and harmony, with inadequate security forces to keep the peace between the divided communities and prevent them from killing each other. As a result of the cultural rifts there is no feeling of Iraqi nationalism, except in the small middle-class (who are emigrating or being exterminated by death squads anyway). Nationalism is, in my opinion, a necessary precondition to democracy. There is no Iraqi nationalism (interestingly enough, there was a whiff of it in the past, in the era of decolonisation), and it's clear that not only did we **** things up after WW1 when we screwed the Arabs over, but now we are both reaping what we have sown and making even more of a mess.

    Iraq as it stands cannot be a democracy; Iran, on the other hand, could be.
 
 
 
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