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September 08, 2006



Great post!!! that poses one hell of a question. But IMHO the answer will always be "it depends". Depends on what you as human being are hoping to get out of it and more importantly what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it. Power like many things in life is there for the taking to the people who want it more. Unfortunately, Liberals are way too busy living to fight, kick and kill for it. Which leaves us with the Neocons and Jihadists. I can only see liberals fighting when their lives become in physical danger and even then most will probably opt to run instead. So that’s F for pro-activeness.

Though this might not be directly related to your question I want to show this and ask “Why?”. Why does our region have most absolute monarchies of the world (excluding Bhutan, Brunei, and Swaziland) and the rest are a mix of dictatorships, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes? While we the sheep are the ones to blame (Liberal or not) I just cant help but wonder. If democracy is the goal of Washington why do they support so many of these governments? hmm


I am surprised that you haven't mentioned the recent car bomb attempt in Lebanon regarding the principals of the Hariri investigation.


Great post indeed .. like all of the latest from Ammar lately.

But I have an issue with making assumptions or generalizing things, even for seemingly obvious cases, for example:

1) "Liberals" are not always right. They would like to lead the majority of less-enlightned people towards a brighter and better future, but Liberals have no practical experience in government and their hopes are not necessarily going to translate to an improvement over what the current "dictators" are offering. They might be just as dangerous as the NeoCons or the "realists".. why assume that Liberals have the keys to all problems?

2) Dictators are not always the purely evil, destructive creatures they are always described to be. Many dictators are very popular, many dictators do good things for their countries...

Ataturk was, and still is, highly respected in Turkey. He has more statues than Hafez Assad has in Syria, yet Turkey (today a democracy) did not try to demonize Ataturk.

And late king Faisal of KSA? Late Sheikh Zayed in UAE? ... some "dictators" are "respected" by a majority of their people.

I am obviously not defending dictatorships. But I am explaining why "realsits" do not necessarily side with Liberals against dictators all the time.


Indeed, Alex, I agree, liberals are not always right and dictators are not always bad, which further complicates things. But in the case of most stares in the region, the dictators have been quite bad, because not a single iota of enlightenment seemed to have crept into their heads, my favorite examples here is, naturally, taraaa, the Assads, old and new, with greater emphasis on the new.

Tarek (IC) poses an interesting question as well, one which I don’t think can be answered, without cultural references, but which still needs to be based more on economic and psychology, meaning aht any people in the same circumstances cultural and religious backgrounds notwithstanding if put within the same geopolitical and economic context in which the peoples of the region find themselves in these days, will end up behaving in the same way. I should elaborate on this point, in a post soon.

As for us US policy, I think, the US, liker any great power throughout history, is working for its own interest, whether this leads to democratization or not. This may not be so moral, but states do not deal on the basis of moral principles, even they claim to, hell, especially when they claim to. What’s the favorite line about he Islamic conquests that Muslim apologists are so fund of? “We came to pull people out from under the injustice of religion into the light of Islam.” Of, course, booty and power had nothing to with the conquests, even though, the early Muslims ended up having civil wars that paved the way for so many schisms over these issues.


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i am not sure if links are blocked in the comment section or if i did it wrong. but when i said " i want to show this" the word this was suppose to be linked to the following http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Form_of_government.png

and while i did pose the question i am fully aware of the econimic and political reasons behind washingtons alliance with some of our arab "brethern" i just wanted to throw it out there

ghassan karam

Everything has a price. If political stability is attained at the expense of democratic principles and human dignity then the price is too high. Nothing in the world, no set of circumstances can ever justify dictatorship and illiberal government. If putting bread on the table is acceptable then so is slavery that provides shelter and exploitation that provides food. These are moral principles that we must hold high. These are ideas that cannot be negotiated since they are elemental.

Actions of individuals must always be guided by what is moral, what is right. We have the obligation to do the right thing without anyregard to the outcome of doing it. Actually if we are to do the right thing only when we are assured that the reaction will always be positive then that is not half as important as doing the right thing when you know that the reaction will be negative and painful.It is easy to tell the truth if one does not expect any punishment but the ones who possess strength of character are the ones who refuse to tell a lie even when they are implicating themselves. The above issue does not present a dilemma to me because whenever I am presented with the question of whether a wrong action can ever be justified I am always reminded of Plato who refused to have his life spared if he would concede a falsehood.

Ammar, the above same logic will dictate that there is no such thing as a good dictator. It is impossible to be and not be at the same time.


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Ghassan those words are too theoretical for most of the people living in those "dictatorships" ... what counts for most of them is not only their survival needs (security, and bread on the table) but they also have their own choice of "moral principles" ... in your case, freedom and democracy, in their case it could be "standing up to the occupiers of our lands"

Syrians respected Hafez Assad because he made their country more formidable internationally. Saudis were proud of King Faisal partially because he was a good Muslim, The Lebanese maronites were proud of Michel Aoun and Bashir Gemayel because they stood up to the Syrians ...etc

So approving of a dictator's rule is not always about satisfying one's physical needs like "putting bread on the table", which as you correctly pointed out, is the same argument behind justifying slavery.

Do you feel it is right that you feel everyone in those countries must share the same choice of values and moral principles that you and other liberals have?

ghassan karam

Alex, The short answer to your question is but of course. Why would I choose something for myself if I do not want others to choose it too. I must add; in order not to be misinterpreted, that I will not force anyone to adopt my views and I will respect theirs.

King Faisal, Hafez and Gemayel ( the examples that you used) do not accept the other and cannot respect human rights. Therefore I reject the three with passion. If that is what passes for good statesmanship then that speaks volumes about the political maturity of the Arab world.No wonder we are at the bottom of the list of economic development in practically every single yardstick.

BTW,I would suggest that a democratic regime would have had much better success than any of these bankrupt dictatorships in regaining lost land and yet improving the level of welfare. Creativity in all fields has an immensly better chance to prosper and be fruitful in a political setting that is tolerant, respectful and secular.

Abu Kareem


Although I agree with you in principal, your absolutist stand, while it applies to individual behavior does not necessarily apply to states. The United States can claim to have been a liberal democracy for over 200 years but for much of that time slavery existed and segregation persited into our (my) lifetime. The point is that it is an evolutionary process; you don't go from illiberal dictatorship to a full fledged liberal democracy overnight.


You posit two equally depressing alternatives: peace and stability of the realists vs mayhem. Are these really the only alternatives or is it just our lack of imagination? Using a stick on a cornered paranoid regime will only make it lash back irrationally. How about a carrot to get them out of that corner once in a while? I
am not advocating maintainance of the status quo but rather a mix of carrot/stick while creating incentives for positive change; a sort of peace with instability if you like.


I think Alex was trying to make the point that sometimes dictators proved to be somewhat "useful," rather than good in the moral sense. We would never know whether Turkey would have developed into a democracy without having to go through that transitional period of autocracy symbolized by Mustafa Kemal, but, I can tell you this, none of our existing dictators seem capable of paving the way for such a development, least of all the Assads.

Concerned Australian.

i am worried that we wont last much longer as humans, i have no religeous beliefs but i still worry about everyone.... even muslims. My government is full of narrow minded idiots which have no idea whats going on. I want to see everyone get along but the governments of the world want things their way, peace is possible but the people have to make an effort to change things, not the government. One more thing, i dont support any war in any country, my government wants only to please George W.

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