Vanguards

I remember a time when right wingers routinely derided Marxism and leftist thinking because it was “emotional” and “irrational”. Attempting to use the state to create utopia was bound to fail because there was not feasible means by which this could be, that human nature was too strong, and that socialism was incapable of creating a realistic and successful political system.

Increasingly, I find this to be rather ironic. Intellectuals associated with the “right” — especially neo-conservatives but also some mainline conservatives — seem to be writing and reasoning with their hearts rather than their heads. Denunciations of “stability” in favor of some piddlypuff democratic world revolution, even in places that are stable allies or in which there is not a whiff of powerful democratic agitation, come mostly from the right, and “democracy” has replaced “socialism” as the land of utopia. Democratic revolutionism in North America has become the new Marxism. I have remarked on this before, as have prominent scholars, such as Francis Fukuyama and various leftists.

This came to mind as I was strolling through the stacks of periodicals in the library. I picked up several copies of right leaning or right-wing magazines and periodicals to find tales of how “democratization” would save the Muslim world or some other imperiled region of the earth; some others discussed the means by which anti-Americanism would decline if only the United States supported democratic revolution in countries whose elites and state apparatuses are intricately tied to the US and whose political economy is quite stable. Why? For the sake of revolution. Because it makes us feel good. Not because it actually serves the national interests or because it would result in a more stable order.

A clipping (as well others, but the library is about to close) from Policy Review illustrate the emotional tendency on the right pretty well.* An essay by Paul Kengor (“The ‘March of Freedom’ From Reagan to Bush”) writes ignorantly of a world in which “there was one part of the world immune to this wave of freedom: the Middle East — the least democratic region on the planet and, perhaps not coincidentally, the most violent.” It is known by astute students of world affairs that Africa is the most violent region of the world, with more active conflicts — not mere “disputes” as is often the case in the Middle East — than anywhere else. More Africans have died in the Great Lakes region of central Africa than any of the conflicts in the Middle East combined. In the Second Congo War alone over 5 millions perished. The Eritrean War of Independence; the Rwandan Genocide and its associated troubles, the Angolan conflict, the bloodletting in Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone, the Somali bedlam, the Ethiopian-Somali conflict, the various rebellions ranging throughout the center of the continent, the rumbling in Kenya, and the present genocide taking place in Sudan dwarf the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanese civil war, all three Gulf Wars, Anfal, and political violence within the assorted region’s authoritarian regimes. There are more live conflicts in sub-Saharan African than the Middle East and they are larger and more deadly.The irrational infatuation that the author shows for democracy promotion — especially in its Reaganesque form — clearly leads him to ignore the problems associated with transplanting democratic procedures and forms into societies that are not ready for them. And it ignores the democratic experiments in Africa, which in many places has proven to be as much a failure as in the Middle East only, save for that those states tend be significantly less powerful. Indeed, Africa is not mentioned at all in the piece. The only test cases that the viewpoint expounded in this piece has are Eastern Europe and some East Asian states. The notion that societies can develop on their own seems to be out the window; non-democratic societies require a Vanguard, a Reagan, a Bush, a Kengor.

* [Policy Review, December 2007 and January 2008, No. 146.]

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