I read with great interest Condoleezza Rice”s article in the Washington Post: "Promise of democratic peace: why spreading freedom is the only realistic way toward security". The article demonstrates a positive desire to make a better world for everybody. I was quite impressed with many of the ideas, such as the inefficiency of conventional diplomacy as a crisis management tool in the changing world of today.
Secretary Rice focused on the Middle East, where "lack of freedoms provide fertile ground to the growth of strong and repulsive hate ideology, which could lead some people to strap their bodies with explosives and fly their planes to destroy buildings." She identified the reason as "when people of this region are unable to deal with their problems through an open political process, they resort to the shadow where they become victim to evil people with evil plans."
Secretary Rice concluded that "it is useless to try and encourage economic reform in such societies and raise hope that lack of freedoms will be dealt with in time."
She finally summarized the United States policy in the Middle East as aiming at "ending oppression and dictatorship in the world through changing the nature of regimes," and "creating democratic states that govern well, meet the needs of their citizens, and act with responsibility in the world system." So, the United States sees the danger as emanating from states that don””t have "good regimes."
During the same period when the article was published, there was wide media coverage on the secret American prisons in European and Asian countries. The authorities of the most powerful democracy in the world detained and tortured suspects in those prisons, which fall conveniently beyond the jurisdiction authority of the American government. I was surprised with Rice””s justification for the existence of such prisons as means that have "saved many European lives."
During the same period, we also witnessed racist assaults in Australia against Arabs, as well as violence in France. Analysts concluded that both events were result to discrimination against descendents of Arab origins and lack of receptive assimilation from host societies.
All of us, definitely, seek a better world. The logic in Rice””s article, however, is not conducive to such world, for many reasons. One reason is that good and evil have existed since the beginning of creation. It is nonsensical that the U.S. sets its mission as the elimination of evil. By all standards, terrorism is absolute evil. It is, however, not restricted to race or faith. Unless terrorism is seen as consequential to certain circumstances, it will remain misunderstood.
Prescribing that certain regimes should be dealt with, as they pose threat to the international community, is presuming the inexistence of people in these states.
This is a dangerous assumption; otherwise, worse, it violates the dignity and sovereignty of people in those states. It is more like colonial guardianship that has been fought off throughout the world.
Threats to the international community should not be ignored. This, however, demands fair treatment of all people, with no discrimination on basis of color, ethnicity and religion. Policies on the ground demonstrate discrimination, neglect to freedom and democracy, and exploitation of smaller, weaker states, in the name of spreading "good regimes" to serve the interests of more powerful states.
The strategy of making "democratic peace" has failed short of incorporating an essential concept: denouncing occupation. How "democratic peace" could be built in the Middle East with Israeli occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands?
The dangerous misconception underlying the policies of the world””s superpower is that the Middle East is the birth region of the ideology of hate, when, through history it has been a thriving epitome of human coexistence. Different faiths have coexisted over thousands of years, producing unique civilizations.
The existence of few individuals, whose rage against oppression and humiliation has been derailed into terrorism and crime, does not stigmatize all the people of the region. Alternatives can still be found. Oppression and injustice breed anger and terrorism. Only a strategy that seeks justice, equality, freedom and the end of occupation can truly achieve democratic peace.