Yesterday, CNN lamented “How Egypt’s generals cut the revolution down to size.” What was the revolution? Not what anyone thought it was. As the inimitable Mark Steyn points out, Western media hailed these students as the future liberalizing force for freedom and democracy in Egypt. Now, events are showing them once again as the convenient tools of power players. They were mobilized in numbers, but not towards the ends they hoped for.
Students also aren’t usually emblematic of a country’s culture at large. How do we know this? In the case of Egypt, the people voted the Muslim Brotherhood into power.
After the Egyptian presidential election this past Sunday, the US Embassy in Cairo tweeted:
We congratulate Egypt on this presidential race. It’s a historic event 4 democracy in Egypt.
But democracy does not always mean progress, and democracy does not always result in what’s best for American interests overseas. Like Facebook, direct election of representatives is not a value system in and of itself, outside of letting people choose for themselves. That’s a good, libertarian start, but people choose all sorts of good and bad things. Democracy is not an end, only a means. It can be used to liberalize, or it can be used to oppress. Culture matters. Democracy’s redeeming quality is that it helps legitimize a government and tie that government to its people. At this point, the government, duly elected by the people, must be held accountable as a holistic entity.
One talking point often used by Western societies in dealing with tyrants is that we have a problem with the despot’s government but not the people (oft used in the case of Iran). But what happens when the people are responsible for the government? Shouldn’t the country at large be held accountable for the actions of its government? We also saw this in the Palestinian territories when the people elected Hamas, whose charter still calls for the destruction of Israel.
Aside from the constitutional destruction from the institutional recidivism of the military and judiciary to its dictatorial roots, another aspect of this military takeover is that it will allow other countries to continue to excuse a culture that persecutes Christians and promotes clitoridectomies. Moving forward, critics will blame a lack of democracy as the sole cause of a host of evils under the new government, but many of those evils would still exist if the Egyptians were given the United States’ constitution tomorrow.
Democracy is not a panacea for the evils in the world. The worth of a democracy resides in vigilance by a self-reliant citizenry steeped in Christian values. The CNN article concedes as much:
Meanwhile, secular pro-democracy activists who took to Tahrir Square last year are wringing their hands. The very democratic structure they dreamed of appears to have withered in part because they developed no unifying ideology.
Ideology – i.e. culture.
Greece recently held a national election in which they clung to a thread of hope in staving off fiscal armageddon. The party voted into power is interestingly called ‘New Democracy’. The Greeks may have used the instrument of democracy to tell the Germans that despite their childish temper tantrums of the past, they are prepared to accept the reality of the situation. The elections could have also sent the opposite message. Again, democracy is only a tool to convey a snapshot of the underlying cultural trends among the participating voters.
What is in the United States’ best interest at home and overseas?
More democracy is not alone the answer.
What is the answer? Cultural confidence. Outward projection of that culture to all four corners of the globe with unabashed pride. The old saying regarding our allies, the English: The sun never sets on the British Empire. Someday, may the sun never set on the American way of life.