Monday, July 10, 2006

Enemies of Democracy

As Fred Hiatt points out in this column in the Washington Post, jihadists aren't the only, or even the primary, threat to democracy:

...when President Vladimir Putin hosts the first summit of Group of Eight leaders in Russia this week, the most notable thing won't be that his country has failed to become the consolidated democracy that the G-7 countries expected when they invited Russia to join a decade ago. What will be remarkable -- but has been little remarked on -- is that Putin has become a leader and an emblem of an active movement to combat the spread of democracy.

...they [have] accelerated their harassment of civic groups, radio stations, political parties and any other independent voices -- with arbitrary detentions, visa bans, impossible funding rules, intrusive registration requirements and more.

Putin is not interested in simply repressing democratic liberties in Russia. He's also interested in rolling democracy back in neighboring countries:

Georgia's democratic president, Mikheil Saakashvili -- was in Washington last week warning that Putin and his ilk may be interested in more than defense; they may want to roll back democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and beyond. Bush, who spent two hours with the Georgian, appears to understand this.

Putin is, in fact, working hard to undermine democratic Georgia, a nation of fewer than 5 million people bordering Russia on the south. He has banned imports of Georgian produce, wine and mineral water; he is manipulating secessionists inside the country. Saakashvili's success in promoting economic growth and diminishing corruption may be too dangerous an example for Putin to abide.

Without a doubt, Muslim terrorists oppose democracy. Their vision of an Islamic caliphate is fundamentally at odds with our vision of governments that protect fundamental liberties. But the fact is the jihadists are not bringing down democratic regimes; they are primarily at war with the already anti-democratic and repressive regimes of the Middle East. But Putin and others are actively opposed to democratic liberties. Such liberties are a threat to their power, even in neighboring countries that provide a positive example, and they will do what they must to curtail democracy (often in the name of security, as Hiatt points out.) What's most unfortunate is that Putin and others are our allies in our "war on terror", and that we are in fact legitimizing their anti-democratic efforts with our silence. Thus terrorism is a threat to democracy in that not only will it cause us to sacrifice our own liberties, but to approve of the sacrifice of the liberties of others, thus undermining the vision of democracy we claim to be fighting for.

1 comment:

Nat-Wu said...

Well, we already knew that America will subvert democracy in other countries when it suits our purposes. These kinds of stories need to be much more well publicized though, to get Americans really thinking about our foreign policies.