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Democracy is an illusive thing for the poor, the downtrodden, the ignorant, and the disadvantaged. In fact it can't happen as long as these barriers bar accomplishments, whether for the individual or his/her society.

Democracy is an illusive thing to a culture that has been governed by the Qur'an for 14 centuries--that is steeped in the concept that freedom only comes with surrender to God. This freedom is real enough to those who experience it. By leaving responsibility to God, young people are freed from having to make tough decisions, and they feel absolved from guilt when they harm others--it is God's will. In this atmosphere, the promise of a heaven far better than the one on earth--yes earth is a heaven--motivates many violent deeds, and suicidal violence.

Democracy is illusive when it comes from the infidel--and not just the infidel. In the words of Pat Robertson, the born-again Christians have their own analogous process for controlling society, and it too is autocratic.

Democracy is almost impossible to impose. It is best homegrown. When it is an invention of traditional enemies, it finds difficulty in taking root. Even if the majority would prefer liberty and freedom, the ruling elites have everything to lose if democracy becomes the model for governance.

In short, cultures are now in conflict. Secularism and Fundamentalism are clashing worldwide. No one is faulting George Bush for taking action in Afghanistan against the Taliban. However, most people now see many serious errors in his war upon Iraq. And there are huge problems with how he took action. He took a page out of the book on empire building. And he appears self-serving in the ways he goes about it.

None of this is new, but it bears repeating. There are people who have positive suggestions about how to move forward. Zbigniew Brzezinski provides the following thoughtful remarks. Excerpts from New York Times, 8 Mar 2004:

The Wrong Way to Sell Democracy to the Arab World

Zbigniew Brzezinski

"...the historical reality [is] that democracy can flourish only in an atmosphere of political dignity. As long as the Palestinians live under Israeli control and are humiliated daily, they won't be attracted by the virtues of democracy...."

"For the Bush administration's initiative to succeed, it must be more in sync with regional realities. To that end, the administration should take the following steps:

    "First, the program must be devised with Arab countries and not just presented to them. Egyptians and Saudis will not embrace democracy if they feel that their religious and cultural traditions are being slighted. The Europeans should also be fully engaged, and they should likewise pursue a dialogue of their own with the nations of the region regarding the definition and the goals of the planned undertaking. Any differences in approach could then be reconciled at the G-8 summit meeting.

    "Second, the initiative must recognize that without political dignity derived from self-determination there can be no democracy. The Germans regained their political dignity in a relatively short time after the end of World War II, and that in turn helped them to revive the democratic traditions of the pre-Nazi era. The program for Arab democracy will be more successful, and find wider acceptance, if it is matched by efforts to grant sovereignty to the Iraqis and Palestinians. Otherwise, democracy will seem to many in the Arab world to be window dressing for continued external domination.

    "Finally, the United States must define the substance of a peace settlement in the Middle East and then work energetically to put that agreement in place. Doing so will give greater credibility to the constructive motives behind the democracy initiative; it will also show the countries of the Middle East that there is a shared basis for a genuine partnership with the democratic West.

    "The transformation of the Middle East will be a more complex undertaking than the restoration of postwar Europe. After all, social restoration is inherently easier than social transformation. Islamic traditions, religious convictions and cultural habits must be treated with patient respect. Only then will the time be ripe for democracy in the Middle East."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, is the author of "The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership."

This is merely the democratic way.

Now that Bush is bad history, reconciliation has begun in earnest. Mr Obama is embracing Europe instead of proclaiming Europe is "old." Queen Elizabeth broke tradition--saying Michele Obama's "hug" was affection, not at all a break in protocol. When Barack took his "Town Hall Meeting" on the road in France, the French and Europe went ecstatic. Finally when He observed that the US can no longer manage the world, but that it needs all the help it can get, He was merely being real. We capitalized "He" because Obama is the nearest thing to a proper noun in all of humanity. He is not the wimp the opposition made him out to be: he put General Motors and Chrysler in their proper place. It is a private matter after all. Big steel learned how to be efficient, so can they. Obama may have erred on occasion, but he did not commit the sins of other recent Administrations: wrong pig-headed action or inaction. Even his "wrong" actions are on course, can be fixed if/as necessary. The main concerns are whether his fixes go far enough. It is too early to know, but early signs are glimmering in the gloom.

We must also remember that Congress is part of our Tripartite government. It is not yet fully in tune with Obama, nor should it be--a point Obama has made repeatedly. We have a citizen-president at last.

Obama is not only embracing Europe, but the Middle East as well. He let that be known immediately upon taking office, and his actions since are in tune with that.


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