Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Western Alliance Must Reunite to Overturn Democracy Decline


The Facebook Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt triggered the Arab Spring last year, which has overthrown autocrats to pave the way for long pursued democracy in the Middle East. However, the Freedom House has released a warning report that democracy is in decline worldwide, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and Southern Africa (“Democracy declined worldwide in 2011, Arab Spring nationsat risk: report”; Reuters; September 17, 2012).

In view of the rise of autocratic powers, this is a critical problem. China shows no hesitation for expansionism in the East Asian sphere. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin denounced American “manipulation” to sponsor against Kremlin votes in the presidential election this year (“Russiasays U.S.aid mission sought to sway elections”; Reuters; September 19, 2012). And also, Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons.

Let me review the report briefly. “Freedomin the World 2012” states that despite progress in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, repressive responses against civic movements are rampant in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. Therefore, Middle East democratization, which is a key global security agenda since the out break of the War on Terror, is seriously challenged. Also, governmental propaganda in China and Russia agitates fears against civic protests, in order to prevent the spread of the Jasmine Revolution in their countries. China boasts their most sophisticated system of media repression to control news reports and censor information. Other authoritarian regimes like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela develop various techniques to control the media and blogs.

Currently, the Western alliance just sits still and watches such gloomy trends. But it is established democracies, notably the United States, Europe, and Japan, that can take leadership to overturn global trend of moving back toward autocracy. Freedom activists against authoritarian regimes are disappointed with the Western alliance for petty realism and appeasement policies at the expense of their hope. They are right, in view of the trend stated in the Freedom House report.

For advancing democracy, the Middle East is a key area. While the Freedom House evaluates the transition in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya positively, democracy in those countries are still fragile. Also, some conservatives in the United States and Europe are afraid of the rise of Islamism as typically shown in the enforcement of Sharia law. However, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki comments that the Arab Spring is neither anti-West nor pro-West. Nor is it a matter of religion or Sharia Law, but of social justice. Marzouki admits that democratization allowed some extremists to free ride liberal political system. However, he stresses that the real objective of religious extremists is not political participation, but creating chaos. They attacked Tunisian symbols like national flag and anthem, before attacking American symbols, according to Marzouki (“The Arab SpringStill Blooms”; New York Times; September 27, 2012).

We have to watch carefully how much Islamists respect universal value of modern enlightenment. But President Marzouki’s article is noteworthy, because social justice in one country poses significant influences to its behavior on the global stage. This is the vital reason why the Western alliance needs to be re-invigorated to manage the resurgence of autocracies. We must remember that democracy promotion for good governance is one of vital objectives in the War on Terror, in order to wipe out the root causes of violence and extremism.

Currently, the Atlantic alliance is centrifuged as seen in the Chicago NATO Summit. Also, the US-Japanese alliance faces a critical test on Okinawa. Autocracies and extremists seize opportunities like this. In order to bounce back from democracy decline and endorse Middle East freedom, major democracies need to redesign strategic partnership to launch initiatives to promote liberal values throughout the world. These initiatives are beyond the United States, Europe, and Japan. Once the strategic partnership is found, then, we can enlarge this to include emerging democracies like India, Australia, Israel, South Korea, and so forth. Freedom House report is a reminder to tell us how seriously unsecured our liberal society is in the world today.