Discuss the following statement in the light of the American government´s efforts to get countries to adopt democracy.
"Two cheers for democracy: one because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism." (E. M. Forster)
Liberal democracy is an imperfect political regime exactly because it genuinely reflects human imperfection. Different countries have different kinds of democracy because historic and cultural aspects will lead to particular democratic systems.
There is little doubt that democracy is the best way for a society to organize itself politically. The problem with President Bush's policy of imposing democracy in the Middle East is not due to anti-democratic feelings. Rather, it is due to the fact that Bush's approach undermines the historic and cultural basis from which democracy can organically stem.
Democracy is an on-going process in which groups struggle for political power in order to defend their own interests and world-view. Democracy institutionalizes conflict. These politically organized groups are the parties which, in order to bear ligitimacy, must establish roots in society. Hence, democracy can only be legitimate and organical if there is an organized civil society, willing to respect democratic rules and institutions.
The reason many people are skeptical about the US policy of "regime change" is in part the fact that imposition is not the natural outcome of the historic process.
Countries like Chile, South Korea, Russia and Brazil have passed from autocratic regimes to democratic ones. In all of these cases, these were processes from whithin. Each took different time-frames, and led to particular forms of democracy. Today they vary in degree of democratic openness, but they all claim to have a democratic system.
There is no reason to believe that something similar could not take place in the Middle East. Perhaps a better approach would be to reinforce Western ties with the civil society in the region, for example by means of cultural and academic exchange programs between its citizens. This could have much better and lasting results, in the long run, than the use of violence which, so far, has only provoked more violence.
Iraq's neighbor, Iran, may be a role model of a gradual, organic and legitimate regime change. Nowadays, the sole threat to continuing political openness is Western meddling in Iran's domestic affairs (that has been, by the way, the same source of legitimacy that has kept alive thus far the backward Castro regime).
To understand the basis of democratic regimes - the strength of civil society - is the key to finding creative, peaceful and productive ways to lead other nations through the democratic path. It's perhaps too late for Iraq, but elsewhere, as in Lebanon, signs are promising.