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Givens: We should welcome democracy in Middle East
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When the Jasmine Revolution began in Tunisia, I was happy. When it spread to Egypt, I was thrilled. When it spread to Libya, I could envision the existence of a group of democratic Middle Eastern nations with intelligence agencies capable of doing what our CIA is incapable of, tracking down and destroying al-Qaida from within.

During the Egyptian protests I heard a conservative talk radio commentator, banking on fear, express dismay at the removal of the Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak may have been undemocratic but he was in our pocket. It saddens me greatly to hear people who call themselves patriots and lovers of freedom dismay when the bell of liberty rings abroad.

Perhaps their fears are not unfounded. Democratic movements don't always end well. The first major quasi democratic nation state emerged after the English parliament overthrew the monarchy during the English Civil War. This representative government quickly devolved into a theocratic dictatorship headed by Oliver Cromwell. This theocratic dictatorship was more repressive than the monarchy had ever thought of being. The Stuart monarchs were invited back.

Democracy is contagious, though. The monarchies of France and Spain helped us in our own fight against England, not because of their love of democracy but they believed an independent United States would equal a weaker English empire. Unfortunately for them, the United States provided evidence that representative democracy could work.

The colonies of Spain following our example began to declare independence and the people of France rose up against their own monarch. By investing in democracy elsewhere they guaranteed the death of their own tyrannies.

Again, these democratic revolutions didn't always end well. France entered a period called the Reign of Terror. Many Latin American countries never really embraced democracy but instead only moved the control out of the hand of Europeans to native despots.

Despite those turbulent beginnings democracy has spread across Europe and the Americas. The democratization of the western world was a process of many generations.

Due to modern technology, society changes rapidly now. The democratic revolutions in the Middle East have the ability to do for the Middle East in 15 years what took Europe 300 years to accomplish. The United States' independence from England and the monarchy provided an example for the rest of the Americas and Europe to follow.

Today, the freedoms and civil rights found in the western world are providing an example for the people of the Middle East to follow.

The Obama administration should not go without credit. When Ronald Reagan was president, the Berlin Wall fell and he received recognition for his part. So far the Obama administration has managed to navigate a regime change in Egypt while staying friendly with both sides. Miraculously he has helped secure a unanimous vote in the United Nations concerning action toward Libya.

The U.N. can't agree on what time it is; for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to have pulled that off is impressive. The entire world is speaking with one voice that Moammar Gadhifi must go. Liberty advances.

The beautiful thing is that the internet, Facebook, Twitter along with an even-keeled Obama administration foreign policy has done more for freedom in the Middle East than 10 Iraq wars ever could have.

Why do some view this with dismay? Oil prices may go up, and that will hurt, but that's our problem and we need to deal with it. We shouldn't desire Arabs be denied democracy so we can have cheaper fuel.

Many claim that moderate Muslims aren't doing enough to silence their radical brethren. Well, these democratic movements are largely dominated by liberal and moderate Muslims. They are now making their voices heard. They are screaming they want tolerance for all.

In response, elements in our media spread fear that the radical Muslim minority will win out if there is democracy in the Middle East. For some elements of the media fear is what keeps the listeners and viewers. Having the listeners and viewers is what keeps the sponsors paying the bills. Don't believe their hype they are sacrificing truth for money.

It saddens me that Americans would fear democracy overseas. Maybe the democratic revolutions there will end like the English Civil War did and turn those nations into theocratic dictatorships.

However, in that rebellion, theocratic dictatorship was not the outcome people wanted so they overthrew their own revolution. It was all part of a process. I expect the same would happen in these Arab nations. They fight for freedom not theocratic tyranny. Let us help and support our Arab brothers as they make the long hard walk toward freedom.

Some would take my argument to the extreme and say we should militarily be in Libya right now. To those I ask, how would Americans have responded if the French army showed up uninvited on our shores in 1776?

Our earliest presidents had a tradition of allowing democratic movements to work themselves out. The Monroe Doctrine was our statement to the world that we wouldn't let the powers of Europe intervene in newly minted democracies of Latin America. We understood the importance of self determination.

Let us continue that wisdom with regard to Middle Easterners in their quest for freedom. Let us support them in spirit and thought and only intervene if and when invited.

Brandon Givens is a Gainesville resident and a special-education teacher. His columns appear regularly and on gainesvilletimes.com.

 

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