Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Digganalysis: Middle East Part Two

Part II: Democracy isn’t a dry powdered concentrate that you add water and voila!
American naiveté regarding spreading democracy is as cute and sweet as kids believing in Santa Claus.  OK, calm down, no offense intended, but let me proceed by starting with our own history.  Our own experiment with democracy had a very auspicious start; you all remember the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.  No?  It was as popular and memorable as the first series George Clooney starred in called ER.  Yes, look it up, it was on CBS in 1984/85 and it starred Eliot Gould.   But I digress.   The Articles of Confederation were drafted in 1776 and were ratified in 1781 and they were completely ineffectual because the concept of a centralized federal government was quite discerning so the states were given more power.  It failed miserably; leading to the smartly constructed James Madison crafted Constitution ratified in 1787.  Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, the young nation had a Constitution, much of which was based on the Glorious Revolution in Britain in 1688 when William of Orange conquered Britain and created the English Bill of Rights.  And while Conservatives love to brandish their pocket editions of the Constitution (though they often wrongly cite passages from the Declaration of Independence when they are talking about the Constitution), the document almost did not get ratified.  It took a tremendous amount of, wait for it…., compromise…urrrggghhh the ‘C’ word for Tea Partiers.  Some key factoids:
1)      The Great Compromise saved the Constitutional Convention, and, probably, the Union. Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman called for proportional representation in the House, and one representative per state in the Senate (this was later changed to two.) The compromise passed 5-to-4, with one state, Massachusetts, “divided.”
2)      On March 24, 1788, a popular election was held in Rhode Island to determine the ratification status of the new Constitution. The vote was 237 in favor and 2,945 opposed!
3)      The word “democracy” does not appear once in the Constitution.
4)      Neither does the word God.
5)      Ratification was a close call in Rhode Island (34-32), Massachusetts (187-168), New York (30-27), Virginia (89-79), and New Hampshire (57-47).  Compromise regarding the Bill of Rights saved the day.
6)      Slavery was kicked down the road and remained an open sore until 1863; 76 years after ratification.
7)      It took 180 years from the arrival of the first colonists until the Constitution was ratified.
8)      The Constitution has been amended 27 times.
9)      We excluded indigenous and slaves from participating in the process.
10)   The founding fathers were more homogenous than a bowl of white rice.
What’s my point?  Before there was social media, global terrorists, globalization, and the 24 hour news cycle, it still took us hundreds of years before we actually came close to becoming the land of the free, and that was with little diversity and zero tribal division.  Yet we expect democracy to take root in under 10 years because elections can be held.  News flash, while elections usually settle issues in the developed world, they typically create issues in the developing and emerging world; paging Russia.
So, just like the near destruction of the Union in the 1860’s, these fledgling states with deposed dictatorships and monarchies, and having known nothing else, are likely to disintegrate into ancient nation states based on tribal and ethnic lines.  If you don’t believe me, look at Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, Sudan, Indonesia, and the Congo. 
Sorry Virginia there is no Santa Claus and if there was, I don’t think he could create a democracy in the Arab world.  Well maybe in 200 years.
Coming up in Part III: Religion ruins everything and I am not just talking about Jews versus Muslims.

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