Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview

9
Lessons from Latin America for the
Muslim World

Bruce W. Farcau

The fact that the military establishments have played a central role in the political development of third world countries over the past half century should not be surprising. This is so because, as Samuel Huntington noted, the armed forces of newly independent states were often the most modern, disciplined, coherent, and nationally aware element of society.1 Consequently, they believed that they should have a strong and even dominant voice in the national political debate, even if this were to be achieved at the expense of democratic development. This attitude of the military establishments accounts for the prevalence of praetorian regimes, or of civilian governments existing at the sufferance of the military, throughout the third world. Huntington and other scholars have sometimes looked upon the military as a "rationalizing" force in the politics of developing nations.

However, such rationalization often has taken place at the cost of depriving civilian regimes of the opportunity to establish their legitimacy.2 This has been particularly true in the Muslim countries extending from North Africa to South and Southeast Asia, albeit to different degrees. The thesis of this chapter, however, is that the factionalism that is a characteristic of the armed forces of all countries and that can partly explain military intervention in politics can also be a mechanism for transition to a more stable democratic system. This has been the case in Latin America and, despite some significant differences, can happen in some Muslim countries, including those in the Middle East.


PESSIMISM REGARDING DEMOCRACY IN THE
MIDDLE EAST

In the days immediately before and after the 2003 Iraq war, many analysts expressed doubt whether democracy can be established and survive in the Middle

-133-

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