Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times about the challenges of establishing democracy in the Arab Middle East. Here is what he says it is going to take:
Democracy requires 3 things: citizens — that is, people who see themselves as part of an undifferentiated national community where anyone can be ruler or ruled. It requires self-determination — that is, voting. And it requires what Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Democracy’s Good Name,” calls “liberty.”It's the last one that Friedman thinks is going to be most difficult. Now he isn't necessarily the best advocate for liberty as he has shown a marked disregard in the past. And you can see why in the further quote he cites from Mandlebaum.
“While voting determines who governs,” he explained, “liberty determines what governments can and cannot do. Liberty encompasses all the rules and limits that govern politics, justice, economics and religion.”Liberty determines what governments can do? No, guys, liberty determines what governments cannot do. The notion that there are a lot of areas where government has no place is the very core of our idea of liberty.
But here is the elephant I want to draw your attention to. Liberty also requires a certain kind of public virtue on the part of citizens. It's not enough, as is said above, that we see ourselves as part of an "undifferentiated national community". We also have to see ourselves as being entitled to liberty as a very part of our nature as beings. Entitled to a liberty that defines our moral status in the world.
So, how likely is that kind of self understanding in a culture dominated by a religion whose very name means surrender?
While we're at it, how many functioning democratic republics can you think of where the majority of the population is Muslim? How many countries where the majority of the population is Muslim and the liberty of non-Muslim religious communities is guaranteed by law and in practice can you think of? Because that is what "undifferentiated national community" has to mean if it is going to mean anything.
And if you aren't willing to confront those questions, then you're just a dilettante wasting our time. Which brings me back to Thomas Friedman ....