Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Case for Psychology

Emmanuel Navon
For the Sake of Zion
22 February '11

When Natan Sharansky published The Case for Democracy a year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, he ignited a debate about the likeliness of democracy in the Arab world. President Bush loved the book (The Economist said he was having an intellectual affair with Sharansky) and he recommended it to his aids. The idea that democracy was not incompatible with Arab culture and that its promotion would generate peace in the Middle-East neatly fitted the attempt to justify invading a country where no weapons of mass destruction could be found. But the question of whether democracy can flourish in an Arab country was both tricky and relevant at the time. With the recent upheavals in the Arab world, the answer to this question is critical.

As Israel’s Prime Minister recently observed with a well-deserved dosage of scorn, even The New York Times’ editorialists do not know what will be the outcome of the Arab revolts. Are we witnessing a repetition of 1989 Eastern Europe or of 1979 Iran? How strong is the Muslim Brotherhood? Can democracy take hold in societies with no real middle class to speak of?

Because the answer to these questions is partly speculative, the debate is mostly ideological. Liberals call upon the Google workers of the world to unite, and they accuse skeptics of being party poopers. Conservatives roll their eyes at a déjà-vu situation and accuse the Obama Administration of not having learned from Carter’s betrayal of the Shah.

While neither Sharansky, nor The New York Times or Middle East scholars can know for sure whether democracy will spread in the Arab world, lessons can be drawn from the past and reasonable guesses can be made about the future.

(Read full "The Case for Psychology")

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