Money won’t create democracy

June 3, 2011


The upheaval in Yemen and the possibility that al-Qaida might take over, turning that country into a stronger terrorist base than it already is, should give pause to American and European policy in the Arab world.

At its recently concluded G-8 meeting of industrial economies in Deauville, France, Western governments pledged $40 billion to “newly democratic” nations in North Africa and the Middle East. One might as well throw money at Chicago and hope for electoral reform so the dead are no longer allowed to vote on Election Day.

In spring, one usually cultivates a lawn so that new vegetation can take root and grow. In the Arab world where this money is targeted the only roots you’ll find are the roots of oppression and terrorism. If Western nations think what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt will lead to real democracy where competing political parties, ideologies and faiths have a fair and equal opportunity of being debated, they are seriously deluded. The money would have a better chance of financing a winning streak in a Las Vegas casino.

If these countries were seriously pursuing democracy and needed only money to complete their transformation, there is plenty of money in the region that could be used to help them. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, OPEC income is expected to rise this year above the $200 billion increase of 2010. That would be around $833 billion, the Energy Information Administration forecasts. That’s money the United States and the rest of the G-8 have paid oil-producing nations at prices ranging from $4 to $7 a gallon, depending on the country.

If money alone could foster democracy in North Africa and the Middle East, there are plenty of Arab countries with loads of it — chiefly Saudi Arabia. Yet the Saudis have shown very little interest in an “Arab spring,” preferring to remain instead in the doldrums of an Arab winter.

Democracy doesn’t spring up of its own accord. It must have a base from which it can blossom. That was a point made by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and political science at Duke University, in a recent op-ed column for The New York Times entitled “The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy.” Kuran wrote, “Democracy requires checks and balances, and it is largely through civil society that citizens protect their rights as individuals, force policymakers to accommodate their interests, and limit abuses of state authority. Civil society also promotes a culture of bargaining and gives future leaders the skills to articulate ideas, form coalitions and govern.”

None of this exists in any of the nations to which the G-8 has pledged its support. In Egypt, supposedly the most progressive of the Arab states, fundamentalist Muslims still persecute Coptic Christians. The radical Muslim Brotherhood, which at the start of the revolution claimed no interest in political power, is now active in its pursuit of victory in the upcoming election and hints that it might revoke Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

The problems in North Africa and the Middle East can’t be solved by money. What’s needed is a change in outlook. Radical Islam forces women into second-class status; it is rooted, not in optimism, but in pessimism. Radical Islamists appear to serve an angry God who commands them to kill those who do not believe as they do, but this belief will do little to lift the Arab world out of the religious and political deep freeze that holds it back from true progress.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Narnia has been transformed by a white witch into a land where it is “always winter, but never Christmas.” That pretty much describes the lands of North Africa and the Middle East where the “white witch” is radical Islam and spring will never arrive as long as it holds sway over the minds and hearts of the people.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. His email is


gkerr 2 years, 10 months ago


Your argument in my opinion is very sophisticated as in Sophist. Yes people kill and people love and people hate and people believe in the fairy tales of Marxism_Leninism. People in WW2 believed Jews were subhuman vermin that should be killed, slaughtered. Not just Religious types in the traditional sense such as Jihadis, Puritans, Catharists, Albigenses, Hindu Mobs, Crusaders and Inquisitors act on their beliefs, but atheists, causuists, secular materialists, Women's abortion advocates, abortionists, Eugenicists, Illuminati, Rapists, Warriors, and on and on and on.

So what"s the point?

It matters not a whit that this or that zealot acts on a mistaken belief- their Bombs and Gulags and IMD's, and racks, and concentration camps and gas chambers kill on their behalf. Yes people make the moral choice but they make it based upon their beliefs, urges, concupisence.

You make a distinction without a difference which is really no distinction at all. Gkerr


gkerr 2 years, 10 months ago

Liberty One,

It seems you are quite deluded. We all act on what we believe. You clearly believe that all religions are fake made up myths, thus you write your comment believing that people don't act on their beliefs because God isn't real or something. You acted on your beliefs by writing your comment. I write in rebuttal because I believe you are confused and clearly wrong as you trivialize a deadly recurrent phenomenon that is a powerful current in World history.

Faith, Hope, Love, habits of virtue and vice, hatred, are all powerful shapers of human behavior. Gkerr


gkerr 2 years, 10 months ago

To All,

I think most of us believe radical Islam is really a huge problem for Moslems, seculars, Christians, Buddhists, Darwinist, Scientologist's, Jews, all Pilgrims. Radical Islam is even bad for Jihadists. Islam has periodically been overcome with radical Jihadist sentiment over the millennia, Jihadists ascendency is not the result of Israel, or Western Materialists, or Christians, or Marxist's, or European Socialists, Hindus, singly or in combination- but rather it is the result of a notion among many Moslems and their Religious leaders and their holy writ that they are commanded by Allah to conquer the earth and bring a Moslem Theocracy to every square inch of the globe. They have a particular animus for Jews but this animus is universal for all but Radicals of their particular sect as witnessed by their butchering of one another who are a bit different from themselves in radical Islamic denomination.

The danger to Israel is great at this juncture because of the Anti-Semitism of the Western Intellectual, especially the secular elites, even many Jewish elites, which conflates with the explosive Jihad moment of the most recent rise of Militant Islam which as previously mentioned is a serially recurrent occurrence over the centuries since Mohammed's revelation from Allah.

The danger to the Mideast is that the Militants will misjudge the Jews promise to never again suffer a genocidal Holocaust without one he'll of a fight. Jews have nuclear weapons and if their survival is at stake they will use them and their will be blood spilled and flesh burned in a catastrophic war.

Caution is best for all parties but Jihadism does not lend itself to caution. Gkerr


Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

"The radical Muslim Brotherhood,,,, hints that it might revoke Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel."

Step one of the revocation is to return the Sinai Peninsula to Israel, because it was traded for the peace treaty in 1979.

Israel certainly could use the additional 23,000 square miles, since it's such a small country.


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