Friday, March 11, 2011

Is Freedom a Universal Value?

Paleocons do not think so. They would look at the recent events in the Middle East with caution. Their argument would run as follows: Historical practices, customs, and mores play a significant role in shaping society. To think a foreign (Western) model can be imported overnight is foolhardy.

The scene above from Lawrence of Arabia illustrates the Paleocon view. T.E. Lawrence, an Englishman, believes he can bring Western style democracy to the Middle East. After helping the Arabs overthrow the Ottoman Empire, he now has the difficult job of nation building. The scene reveals that hundreds, if not thousands, of years of cultural and political practice will not be erased easily as the Arabs attempt to build a Parliament.

The Neocon response is there is something slightly elitist in the Paleocon view. Indeed, one cannot watch the scene from Lawrence of Arabia without thinking that the film is portraying Arabs in a condescending manner. Moreover, the Neocons would argue that Freedom is a universal value which all people desire. If it seemed like the people of the Middle East have not been interested in Freedom, it is because they were being suppressed by their Tyrant-rulers. In this outlook, intervention is called for in places like Libya. The rebels there are just like our own Founding Fathers.

The Paleocon view counsels isolationism in Libya, but would offer this positive assessment of the situation. The recent Revolutions have all been homegrown and so could succeed. They are products of organic growth, unlike Iraq’s democracy. But they would also offer this piece of advice: since their historical background (politics, culture, and religion) is different from Europe’s and America’s, we should not expect them to have a carbon copy regime. For example, it is likely that religion would play a larger role in the Public Square in Egypt, then it does in France. Instead of ruling that illegitimate from the outset, Westerners should be open to forms of democratic practice which are not our own.

No comments:

Post a Comment