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If Putin’s power base finally collapses, then the party best positioned to pick up the pieces is the Communist Party. It’s not at all inconceivable that within the decade we will see the return of a Communist Russia. The only reason that did not happen a decade ago was that Yeltsin’s collapsing government was replaced by a younger generation of former Communist Party members and KGB agents who built up the present system into their own personal fiefdom. Now in a period of economic turmoil, the Communist message remains popular and may still prevail.
Democracy is not a universal solvent. It is not a guarantor of human rights or the road to a free and enlightened society. As Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, elections allow for a peaceful transition of power. Haniyeh’s Muslim Brotherhood colleagues in Egypt and throughout the region feel the same way. They do not see democracy as an ideal, but as a vehicle for gathering public support to ease their way into power.
A strong showing at the ballot box eliminates the need to gather a mob. The mob just casts the ballots and goes home to watch the fall of a government on television. The transitions however only go one way. In Turkey the electoral victories of the AKP gave the Islamists the power to radically transform the country. Given another decade the elections in Turkey will be as much of a formality as they are in Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will follow the same program, bringing down the military leadership as soon as they can to the applause of the European Union and the United States who care more about the appearance of democracy than the reality of the totalitarian state they are endorsing.
Democratic elections are only as good as the people who take part in them. When the people want the Koran or Das Kapital, then they will get it. Such elections measure the character of a people, their commitment to the rights of others and their basic humanity. The Egyptians failed their election test, as the statistics showing the national support for Sharia and the sexual assault rates forecast that they would. As did the Tunisians and the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.
To the advocates of universal democracy such failures are only a temporary manifestation that can be reversed with enough funding for social NGO’s and political outreach. But the reality is that they represent a deeper moral and spiritual crisis that we ignore at our own risk. Governments reflect the character of the people they rule over and a government whose values and policies have no connection whatsoever with those of the people cannot endure except through the intervention of foreign armies.
Democracy is allowing the Muslim world to express its truest and deepest self. That self is at the heart of this conflict. It is at the heart of the clash of civilizations. By helping to liberate them we have set their worst selves free.
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