While the news of the gruesome and all-too-late death of Colonel Moammar Khadaffi is welcome, it should not be greeted with all the expressions of hope that many in the Obama Administration, particularly President Frequent-Flyer-Miles, himself, have attached to the event.
Despite the evocation of a belief that, with this brutal jerkoff now pushing up the daisies, Libya is on the path to democracy, exasperating experience (and history) has often shown that no such thing will happen, nor should it be expected to happen, without continued sacrifices in blood, treasure and political capital by the West. Particularly, by the United States.
Democracy, you see, is not native to the culture of either North Africa or Islam. In fact, there is no functioning (in the sense that we Westerners would understand the term) democracy anywhere in the Middle East or in the Islamic Lands. There simply can't be, and while some might point to the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, I would ask that you consider what I have to say before you get all smug about it: Democracy is not, as some would suggest, simply a system of government -- it is a cultural phenomenon.
And it is a uniquely western cultural phenomenon, at that, with a 4,000 year old pedigree that has gone through several periods of transformation, acclimatization, compromise, social and religious turmoil, legal wrangling, and historical review. It depends upon institutions that fall outside of the realm of the purely legislative and political. Democracy is, for the most part, the still-evolving result of a continuous experiment in which compromise upon a broad range of issues are daily debated, examined, tested by experience, assimilated, folded, spindled and mutilated, and subjected to the often-harsh process of trial-and-error. That which works, or which can be accommodated, is kept; that which is not, is thrown upon the dustheap of history.
Such a process could only occur within a dynamic culture with values dissimilar to those found within the tribal and sectarian world of superstition which is the Middle East and Islamic World. These Western, democratic values can be summed up as:
1. A belief in individual rights, primary amongst them are the rights to life, property, self-defense, and a belief in the ability of every Man to rise or fall upon his own talents and merits.
2. A cultural atmosphere in which experimentation, scientific or otherwise, has been divorced from the practices and dogmas of religion, and is not subject to the whims, tastes or requirements of the ruling elite.
3. A respect for legalism and legal systems which aren't simply the playthings of the rulership class, and which are intended to promote the general exercise of individual liberties rather to safeguard the prerogatives of the ruling authority.
4. Democratic systems promote the primacy of the intellectual and practical above the concerns of tribe, sect, and superstition.
In other words, Purple fingers, dead dictators, and State Department press releases do not a democracy make. In the Islamic World of today, even in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, the principle building blocks of true democratic institutions do not exist. It is one thing to be able to vote in a former dictatorship, it is quite another to have that vote actually count for anything.
Democracy is not like an iPhone app that one can download and run; it is born of a culture that is amenable to it, and which welcomes it. This has been the greatest misapprehension within American Middle Eastern policy for the last century, a mistaken belief that inside every _________ is an American just dying to get out, if only we could 'give' them 'freedom'.
This extraordinarily naive belief was the primary factor in American defeat in Vietnam, and it may still prove to be the underlying reason for potential failure in democratizing the Middle East and Islam. Words like 'freedom', 'democracy', sovereignty', 'consensual government' and 'legality' haven't the same cachet in those lands that they do here. So far as your typical Islamic douchebag is concerned, 'freedom' means the ability to continue doing that which he has always done -- raping his livestock, beating his wives, plotting the destruction of foreigners with the blessings and encouragement of his religious authorities, bullying his neighbors, stealing whatever isn't nailed down, killing or enslaving his enemies -- for as long as his religion can justify it, and his supply of ammo holds out.
Western democracy has gone through several revolutionary and evolutionary changes since it's inception in Ancient Greece, you see. The Islamic World cannot boast of anything approaching a Renaissance, an Enlightenment, a Reformation, an Age of Discovery, or the slew of associated social, political, scientific, legal, artistic, moral and religious changes that came with each. These changes and challenges, often incremental, more often than not violent and massively-and-traumatically transformative, have made us in the West who we are, and were all vital ingredients in the amalgam that is the Democratic Tradition.
This is a distinct cultural difference and not a merely political one that will be solved by 'giving freedom' to anyone. It is an intellectual issue which cannot be resolved in a world and a mindset which is set in the mental concrete of the 7th Century, and colored by the cultural taboos and practices of the desert nomad.
Islam does not recognize any of the four principal factors mentioned above in the creation of a true democratic state, therefore there cannot, and will not, ever be a true democracy in any of these places, particularly not in Libya. Even in Egypt, where the experience of that culture has been influenced by the Greek, Roman, French, and British Empires the battlecry of the people there has not been for a Western-style, pluralistic democratic state that would be recognizable to your typical American or European; it has been more of a movement in which the people have clamored to be able to elect the Islamically-approved dictator-for-life of their choice.
In non-Western lands where democratic tradition has taken root, notably in India and Japan, it has only done so through a process involving both catastrophic military defeat and long-term military occupation which has served to implant Western values in the host culture, often modifying or destroying the prevailing cultural atmosphere in the process.
Until Islamic culture advances beyond the dictates of a book written by a dead child molester, and expands beyond the petty dictates of the might-makes-right mentality that dominates it, democracy -- as we would understand it -- is not possible, at least not without a 'true' War on Terror, which will require great destruction and loss of life. In the case of Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the first thing these nominally-democratic, popularly-elected governments did was to establish Islam as the national religion, and then turn the revolutionary forces that 'fought for freedom' loose upon religious and racial minorities who may be, or actively are, in opposition to an Islamic state.
Life will go on as it always has, only this time the people at least have the impression that they have legally elected the scumbags who will continue to oppress, deprive, and kill them in the name of religious fanaticism. Nothing much will have changed.
Which brings us back to Khadaffi.
Who or what comes after him? So far as I can tell these 'rebels' and their 'interim government' are largely unknown factors. They have not demonstrated much in the way of democratic intentions, and they are also apparently rent with factional differences which will undoubtedly result in both more bloodshed and the reestablishment of some form of dictatorial rule just as soon as the Crusaders have coughed up some cash and gone home.
This 'War on Terror' of ours, which was supposed 'to bring democracy to the Middle East', has instead installed a thuggish kleptocracy in Afghanistan, half-a-dozen future Saddam Husseins in Iraq, left Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and now promises to install what amounts to an angry mob of lunatics into a position of power in Libya.
And they're all being protected by American guns, propped up or bribed by American cash and political support, and ultimately, American Lives. All we may have accomplished is the simple replacement of vile and disgusting regimes with something more amenable to our control or liking, but we shouldn't dare to call it democracy.
Short of a decades- or even centuries-long occupation coupled with a systematic destruction of what passes for Islamic culture, there is no hope that Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans or Iranians will ever develop democracy on their own, and certainly no hope for sustaining what little has been built to date. It's the New White Man's Burden.
Some might say that what is probably on the horizon will be similar to the battles that we in the Democratic West once fought when the process of evolution towards democracy first began, but I'm not all that certain. We're not speaking of Greek freeholders, Roman republicans, or English yeomen steeped in traditions of sovereign rights and legal discourse, imbued with a respect for life, as much as we're dealing with infantile baboons who's greatest fears are menstruating women and modernity, and who are willing to blow themselves -- and anyone else caught in the explosion -- to smithereens on a quest for 72 virgins in an imagined, extra-earthly paradise in which they're expected to think and behave more or less as they already do.
The rational is not to be found in the Islamic World, and without the ability or ambition on our part to destroy what currently exists there and replace it with what exists here, there never will be. There are no traditions of freedom. There is no recognition of the sovereignty of the individual. There is no record of compromise. There is only conquest, repression, and violence there. Hardly the materials for a democratic state.
Khadaffi's death is welcome news, indeed, but let's not rush to celebrate just yet because we're still not exactly certain of what it's going to continue to cost us, and because our present leadership (such as it is has been) is under the mistaken impression that while culture may count when it comes to deciding who gets into law school or who is protected by federal law, it means absolute jack shit when it comes to potentially transforming the lives of a billion people who would rather kill you than say 'Good Morning'.
At the moment, the Death of Khadaffi should only elicit a polite golf clap and a healthy wait-and-see attitude.