Thursday, September 12, 2013

Plato’s dark forecast about Democracy without Rule of Law

Plato knew well democracy without rule of law in Pakistan will be dominated by demagogues, chaos will ensue, to reestablish order, the people will welcome tyrant, and tyranny will give to other evils!

See this article which appeared in The New York Times on September 11, 2013:

Democracy as chimera

The news from Egypt confirms Plato’s dark forecast about democracy. Early this month the ruling junta in Cairo arrested a labor lawyer and a journalist, raising concerns that the regime’s repression now targets not just Islamists but also secular critics.

As Plato warned, extreme freedom risks extreme slavery. He predicted that democracy — “people rule” — will quickly be dominated by demagogues. Chaos will ensue. To reestablish order, the people will welcome a tyrant. Tyranny will give birth to other evils.

One of America’s leading specialists on the Arab world, the late Ambassador Hermann F. Eilts, agreed with Plato. Having helped mediate the Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel in 1978, Eilts became a professor at Boston University. Before his death in 2006, Eilts often shared with me his misgivings about official U.S. support for “democracy.” Serving in many posts throughout the Islamic world — in Iran and Bangladesh as well as in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya (Muammar el-Qaddafi wanted to kill him) and Egypt, Eilts saw up close the pitfalls of authoritarian rule.

[From The New York Times]

He disliked Washington’s penchant for bribing dictators and for compelling recipients of “aid” programs to buy food, tools and planes made in the United States. Still, Eilts foresaw that “democracy” without the rule of law and respect for minority rights could lead to troubles like those forecast by Plato.

Representative government demands far more than formalities. Hermann Eilts’s father left the German diplomatic corps and moved to Pennsylvania just a few years before 1933, when Germany’s president, elected in a multiparty contest, appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany, expecting him to lead a short-term coalition government.

Hitler quickly changed everything. To gain power, he used and abused the country’s Weimar Constitution, established in 1919 — “the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had seen,” according to William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

Why then did democracy collapse in Germany and prove short-lived in Egypt? Political malaise is often the product of the prevailing political culture, especially when a country is buffeted by cruel events. Weimar Germany, like Egypt today, was polarized. Left-wing parties fought both liberal and rightist forces. Their struggles, sharpened by worldwide Depression, produced a stalemate at the polls that helped Hitler to neuter democracy.

Egypt too is deeply split. For decades the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized force resisting authoritarian rule. Banned from formal political life, it nevertheless enlisted millions of supporters. When Tahrir Square protesters managed to oust Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in 2011, many Egyptians wanted a secular democracy. But the secular groups had no political machine ready for action like the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate, Mohamed Morsi, emerged as the new president.

Like Hitler in 1933-1934, Morsi then acted to create a totalitarian dictatorship. Following weeks of protests, Morsi was unseated on July 3 by a council led by the defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb, and the Coptic pope, Tawadros II. Soon, General Sisi directed a crackdown against all opponents.

As Plato might well have expected, politics in Egypt has gone from bad to worse — from a moderate dictatorship to an elected but ideologically driven dictatorship to a much more violent and intolerant dictatorship. U.S. officials have been torn between concerns for stability and for self-rule. Washington usually offered its official friendship (plus more than $1 billion in aid each year since 1979) to whoever ruled Egypt. But it has also applauded each move — real or apparent — toward democracy, with very little to show for it.

See the full story which published first in the New York Times, and a version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 11, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune:

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