9 years ago: Stop promoting democracy

May 14, 2004, on this blog: Stop promoting democracy

This is what is to be expected when “promoting democracy” is given precedence over promoting the fundamental rights that make real democracy possible.

Establish those rights first and democracy will necessarily, inevitably follow. Attempt to create democracy first and you have Haiti, or Iran, or — God forbid — Rwanda.

  • ngotts

    The “nine years ago” article looks to me like just another variant of neo-colonialism, tacitly assuming that “western democracies” intervene with the best of intentions, but get it wrong by prioritising the wrong institutions. This is very far from the truth.

    By the early 1950s, Iran was well on the way to a human-rights respecting democracy, after a half-century struggle by Iranians beginning with the constitutional revolution of 1905-7 (caveats: both Islamic authorities, in theory, and the Shah, in practice, retained too much power). The CIA and Britain’s SIS overthrew it in 1953 in favour of absolute monarchy, because the elected Prime Minister nationalised the oil industry. They then supported the Shah’s torture-state until it was overthrown in 1979 – and for all its grave faults, the Islamic Republic is considerably more pluralist, less oppressive, and even better for women and for the poor than the Shah’s rule, or than many states “western democracies” are happy enough to do business with. Haiti has been subject to constant imperialist interference – first from France, then the USA – ever since it was created by the only successful slave insurrection in history. In the period leading up to the genocide, Rwanda was the object of ongoing imperialist rivalry between France – backing the Hutu-led government, and the USA – backing the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front. How about working on our own human and democratic rights more, and telling other people how to run their affairs less? Both the USA, and the UK (my country) are better described as partially-elective plutocracies than as democracies; and both states are systematic abusers of human rights at home, and especially abroad.


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