3/22/06

Afghan may be executed for converting to Christianity

Remember before the "war" in Iraq, there was that whole thing with Afghanistan? Taliban?

Well if you recall, we succeeded in overthrowing the Taliban regime that had supported Al-Qaida and set up a democracy. And now everything there is wonderful: women are going to school and learning to read for the first time, men are allowed to shave their beards without fearing an arrest, people who convert to Christianity are punished for their crimes...

Wait a second. What was that last one? An Afghan judge says that since the new constitution says that Afghanistan is an Islamic State, this is the proper punishment for such a crime. Though the Afghani constitution also mentions international standards of human rights, including freedom of religious belief, that part of the constitution has been rejected as a "Western" notion.

It is good that the media has taken note of the persecution of people who have faith in Christ Jesus, which is worldwide problem for millions and millions of believers EVERY day, but this is particularly unsettling example for me as a citizen of the US since we helped set up the current Afghan government.

Now this in my mind begs the question of whether democracy is really such a good thing. Maybe OUR sort of democracy (which is actually a Republic most of whose delegates are democratically elected rather than a pure democracy) is good not because it is democratic but rather because it is democratic AND the people share certain ideological values about the importance of liberty, even religious liberty. After all, if nobody in Afghanistan believes in such things, it won't be a part of their state if that state is a democracy.

Contrary to what I was taught growing up in America, I have come to believe that democracy is not a good in and of itself. In fact, Plato said it was the 2nd to WORST sort of regime (the absolute worst was a tryannical monarchy, perhaps like Stalin's Russia - the best was a philosophical monarchy, perhaps like the Kingdom of Jesus Christ). Now as long as we live in a fallen world, until the Kingdom really does come in fullness, we will need some kind of human government, and a democratic republic has served the US more or less well for a couple hundred years, but that doesn't mean it will work equally well for all others. And I am continually suspicious that any democratic system that is not "under God" must assume a form of secular humanism - we collectively become God.

While studying Political Science at LSU, I was told that one of the most democratic systems in history, if we measure in terms of elligable voter participation, was the Weimar Republic in Germany. They are supposed to have had 90%+ elligable voter participation (as opposed to the US which has around 50% for the really big elections), and yet they elected Hitler!

You see, good ideology and good cultural values are crucial to a good democracy for obvious reasons. If we go around dumping democracies on societies where most of the people are radical Muslims, guess what sort of regime they will elect?

American Democracy is a bit of a fluke historically. This country was settled by people who were fleeing from religious and ideological persecution and our founding documents were written by people who had just won independence from (what they saw as) a tryannical power (some historians suggest that it really wasn't all that bad and in fact the standard of living in the British American colonies was the highest in the world, much better than back in England).
So built into the "DNA" of our country were and still are certain commitments to and attitudes about ideological freedom (within reason of course, as those darn commies found out during the Cold War) and separation of Church and State (which a casual comparison with both Europe and the Middle East will demonstrate has been good for both), hard work and equity and many other things. American democracy was "home-grown" and was an outgrowth of existing cultural attitudes, values, and mores. It was not thrust upon us by a conquering foreign power.

What am I suggesting? That just because we go around conquering truly horrid and evil regimes (lets not forget that part either) and set up democracies in their places, doesn't mean we have done any good thing, since democracy is only as good as the ideological values of the people who vote.

Right now, I do not have any suggestions or really good alternatives: it may be that in the long run the good ideologies will win out on the free market of ideas (assuming that the voting majority will decide to allow free speech). Or it maybe that some kind of puppet interim government (with a very short leash) that is slowly replaced by a real democracy would be appropriate while the people are indoctrinated to hold the sort of values that make for a good democracy (such as, perhaps, a respect for Human Rights as opposed to dismissing them as a "Western notion," having originated in Western Christian cultures). Though I doubt that would be popular, and it might not even be as "utilitarian" as it promises (though no doubt, Machiavelli would approve if it were). Maybe there is a middle way between controlling a newly liberated people and totally cutting them loose to make their own decisions?

I know "indoctrination" is a dirty word, but we might as well call it what it is. Certainly, all people who ever grow up in any society are indoctrinated with certian values that are important to that society and necessary for it to function as it does, this is just part of living together. So the question I am asking is simply this: what sort of cultural values have the people in these countries whose regimes we are changing already been indoctrinated to have and are they conducive to a good and healthy democracy? If not, what should (or can) be done?

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1 Comments:

Blogger VP said...

It's things like this that make me proud to at war against these Middle East nations.

1:35 PM, April 19, 2006  

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