Monday, March 27, 2006

The End of History is Here, but for Middle Easterners It is Just the Beginning
The bottom-line in Professor Francis Fukuyama's book "The End of History and the Last Man" (which by the way is an excellent read) is that liberal democracy ends wars and revolutions by eliminating the major sources of contradiction in societies (thereby putting an end to History). Building strongly on Alexander Kojeve's reading of Hegel, Professor Fukuyama informs us of the end of History after the collapse of the Communism in late 80's and early 90's.

Professor Fukuyama doesn't apparently believe that Middle East is anywhere near the end of History, see his latest in the Wall Street Journal, A Better Idea.

Despite his criticism of the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East, it seems that the administration is doing exactly what he suggests in the last three paragraphs of his article. First, as the White House new national security document states, the promotion of democracy is a way to fight terrorism in the long-run. In the short-term, drastic measures such as preemptive wars are to be pursued. Second, the US and the West in general have made no attempt to roll back election results in Palestine or Iraq (not publicly at least). They are using "soft power" (e.g. withdrawal of the aid to the Palestinian Authority) to make groups such as Hamas to govern more responsibly.

It also bothers me a lot that things related to Iran are treated in such a degree of sloppiness and vagueness even by people like Professor Fukuyama. Examples:

-The elections in Iran are bundled together with elections elsewhere in the Middle East to prove the point that Islamism is on the rise, and push for elections isn't really working.

-Iran is a semi-democracy (whatever the term means) and democratic but not liberal (amusingly enough, Iran is the only example of an illeberal democracy in Prof. Fukuyama's famous book).

It is both sad and funny that Iran is held to standards much lower than even Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe when assessing the "democratic degree" of its elections. Few cases of fraud and intimidation are enough for the West to dismiss the election results in Belarus but in Iran election of Ahmadinejad becomes a hotly debated topic and evidence as to how "democratic" means can produce "illiberal" results. Official election figures are thrown around as valid data points as if the freeness and the fairness of the election were rubber-stamped by no less than Jimmy Carter himself.

While much of the Middle East might be longign for Islamist experimentation, Iran is entering a new post-Islamist era. It remains to be seen whether this era brings liberal democracy, rise of a new form of Fascism, or disintegration of Iran along ethnic lines.

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