Of course, I could be a coward and wait a few years to see how democracy in Iraq and Palestine work out. That would never let the world evaluate the validity or power of my thinking.
I’ll take my chances. I predict that in both cases, Iraq and Palestine, Arab democracy will work.
My premise is simple and clear. Politics is....
My premise is simple and clear. Politics is the domain of power, almost solely the domain of power. Power can be effectively negotiated and expressed in many ways, depending on the culture in which it operates.
The Arab culture is organized around cousin kinship and tribal structures. Religion is an emerging cross-tribal structure, but quite weak. Tribes are always at war, forming alliances, dominating, subduing and balancing…the tribes use the cousin and inter-tribal marriage mechanisms to work out differences. Democracy, meaning elective bodies, is a particularly effective way of bringing fairly equal tribes together and forcing them to cooperate and negotiate.
I must confess that while looking at the reasons the Palestinian polls were so horrifically wrong in predicting the Hamas victory, I looked at the detailed local election results. I saw the names of real Arabs who ran for office and real Arabs who were elected. It is hard to imagine that those people don’t take their election seriously. I think they do and I think they will effectively represent their tribes and in time find a way to make democratic legislatures work.
Arab democracy won’t look anything like our vision of democracy. It will look very corrupt. That is how a cousin-based tribal system will have to work out. Nepotism, with cousins, will be a fact of life in an Arab culture…but it can work.
On the other hand, I have real doubts about the way democracy can work in a Chinese society with family hierarchy and clan structures. I will have to go to Taiwan for an extended period and observe. I’ve been to Singapore and it is too boring to stay for more than three days.
In any case, I expect democracy to triumph in Iraq and Palestine. It is a good overlay of traditional Arab society, better than the dominant-submissive model of the Saud, Hashemite and Alawite tribes.