Magazine article The American Conservative

Democracy's Dilemma

Magazine article The American Conservative

Democracy's Dilemma

Article excerpt

WHEN A NATION fights for its life, ideology goes by the board.

General Washington danced a jig when he heard King Louis XVI had become a fighting ally in our Revolutionary War against the Mother of Parliaments.

In our Civil War, Abraham Lincoln made himself a dictator, closing newspapers, suspending habeas corpus, and locking up editors and legislators.

Woodrow Wilson went to war to "to make the world safe for democracy" alongside five of the most rapacious empires on earth: the British, French, Russian, Italian, and Japanese.

During World War II, our ally that did most of the fighting and dying was the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin.

During the Cold War, America welcomed as allies Chiang Kai-shek, Salazar, Franco, Diem, Somoza, the Shah, Suharto, Syngman Rhee, Korean generals, Greek colonels, militarists in Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, and Pakistan, and Marcos and Pinochet.

But with the end of the Cold War and the coming of George W. Bush, America set aside a national interest-based foreign policy for a policy rooted in ideology. Not until the world is democratic, said Bush, can America be secure. We must "end tyranny in our world."

"The requirements of freedom apply fully to the entire Islamic world," said Bush in 2002. At the National Endowment for Democracy, he listed the "essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture."

"Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military--so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite."

Comes now the acid test of democratist ideology.

Hosni Mubarak has been a loyal ally.

He kept the peace with Israel and helped keep weapons out of Gaza. He fought beside us in Desert Storm and stands with us in the War on Terror. But he is also an autocrat who rules a regime where state and army are virtually one and where the opposition is squelched or imprisoned.

If a democratic Egypt is America's goal, we will push for the removal of Mubarak, for the army to go back to the barracks, and for parliamentary and presidential elections where all parties participate.

But before we do this, we should be on notice what a democratic Egypt, where the government reflects the will of the people, may look like. According to the most recent Pew Research Center poll:

* Twice as many Egyptians identify themselves as Muslim fundamentalists as identify themselves as "modernizers. …

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