19 June 2007

Why are we opposed to a Muslim democracy in the Middle East?

As I read about our enthusiastic restoration of full relations with the Palestinians now that they have rid themselves of their democratically-elected government, I can't help but wonder why we in the West are so opposed to Muslim democracy in the Middle East.

We can go back to the 1950s when the United States and Great Britain conspired with the Iranian military to overthrow the Mossadegh government and replace it with a police state under the Shah. The chickens from that atrocity are still coming home to roost in very dangerous ways today.

The most recent episode of course is our concerted and now successful effort to undermine the Hamas government in Palestine. Chosen by their people in a free and fair election with a voter turnout better than we can muster, Hamas met with nothing but scorn from the West.

The answers to why we opposed democracy in these two cases are obvious: Mossadegh was threatening our control of his country's oil reserves, and Hamas would not submit to Israel. Perhaps more difficult to answer is why we aren't satisfied in simply undermining democracy wherever it rears its head, but why we also ardently support the region's dictatorships. Egypt, whose torture chambers are notorious (a great place for renditions), receives more foreign aid from the United States than any other country in the world except for Israel. As for our very favourite dictatorship in the region, Saudi Arabia, the British government recently offended one of the basic principles of our civilization, the rule of law, so as not to interfere with its massive supply of armaments to that most misogynistic of places.

On the one hand we crush their democracies while on the other hand we generously support the dictators who oppress them. And then we wonder why some respond with rage.

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