MICHAEL MANDELBAUM'S BOOK AND ITS RELEVANCE TO UGANDA'S FLEDGLING DEMOCRACY!
This is an abridged transcript interview of the author of: "Democracy's Good Name," Michael Mandelbaum; with permission from "The Diane Rehm Show and WAMU 88.5FM, Washington D.C."
Even if you do not agree with everything Michael Mandelbaum asserts, this interview has lessons for all nations, democratic or not!
(11:00 A.M.) Tuesday, September 4, 2007
MS. KAY: Thanks for joining us. I am Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm, she is on vacation.
In 1900, only 10 countries were democracies. By 1975, there was 30, but by 2005, the number jumped to 119, that is more than half of all the countries in the world. President Bush made the spread of democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, a linchpin of his foreign policy. But he has faced formidable obstacles.
Michael Mandelbaum is a Professor of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He has just written a new book titled Democracy's Good Name. He joins me now in the studio to talk about the rise and risks of the world's most popular government.
Michael Mandelbaum, thank you so much for coming in to join me.
MR. MANDELBAUM: It is my pleasure. I'm delighted to be with you and your listeners.
MS. KAY: You call your book Democracy's Good Name, but actually if we look through history, for a very, very long time, democracy had a negative connotation, why?
MR. MANDELBAUM: That is a very important point. Democracy meant, for most of history, simply rule by the people. And the people were generally thought, by those who took an interest in politics, unfitted to rule. It was thought that if you gave people power, the result would be anarchy and then tyranny. And people who study politics cited what had happened in ancient Greece as evidence in favor of this proposition but there is even more recent evidence.
After all, popular sovereignty, rule by the people, first came to the modern world with the French Revolution. The French developed the revolutionary notion that the country belonged to the people, not the king, and they got rid of the king and started out with rule by the people. But that did lead to tyranny under Napoleon.
So, democracy had a bad name for a very long time and it developed a good name only very recently, only at the end of the 19th century when democracy came to be defined differently, and this is an important point of my book. What we regard as democracy really represents the fusion of two distinct political trends, popular sovereignty on the one hand but also liberty. Liberty is an older tradition and it is a different tradition.
By liberty I mean freedom of religion, private property and the political liberty as enumerated in the American Bill of Rights. It was only when liberty was fused with popular sovereignty and the fusion was called democracy that democracy developed the good name that it has today.
MS. KAY: President Bush has made spreading this modern form of democracy, this fusion of these two traditions as you call it, a linchpin really, of his whole foreign policy. I remember listening to his second inaugural address where he triumphed the promotion of democracy around the world, "We will not let tyranny stand."
It's been a lot harder than he thought it was going to be, hasn't it?
MR. MANDELBAUM: It has been extremely difficult, and if you look back over recent history the United States does not have a good record of successful democracy promotion. After all, the previous administration announced that it was trying to bring democracy to Somalia, to Haiti, to Bosnia, to Kosovo, and none of those places approaches the standards of democracy that we hold out for ourselves in the rest of the democratic word.
So, promoting democracy is very difficult and there is, I think, a basic reason for that that I discuss at some length in Democracy's Good Name. And that is that while one part of democracy, namely popular sovereignty, that is elections is relatively easy to establish, liberty is hard.
Liberty requires institutions, it requires people with the skills to operate those institutions, it requires values that underlie those institutions and those take time to develop. They can't be produced overnight, and they really cannot be produced from without, they have to be homegrown, and it usually takes at least a generation or more to grow them.
MS. KAY: Perhaps because of some of the problems he has encountered, President Bush has been criticized for trying to spread democracy around the world. As you pointed out just there, he is not the first U.S. leader to try to do so, many have been unsuccessful, have there been successes?
MR. MANDELBAUM: There have been enormous successes, but most of these successes came about because people chose to adopt democracy, not because somebody brought it from without. Now, in this choice, the United States has played an important role by acting as a kind of role model. People look at the United States and say, that form of government seems to work pretty well, let us try it although I should emphasize that the model of democracy is not exclusively an American one, the United States was not the first democracy, that distinction really belongs to England.
And now, as you noted, there are well over 100 democracies and the strength of the democratic example, I believe, stems from the fact that it is not just the United States that employs this form of government. So, democracy spreads by example, rather than by imposition.
MS. KAY: So Ronal Reagan, are you suggesting perhaps he can't claim a particular personal credit for the change of system in the former Soviet Union?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, the change of system in the former communist world came about through a long historical process. A lot of it was due to the failure of communism, which was far more popular when it was established then it proved to be at the end.
MS. KAY: Rather than an active attempt to export democracy?
MR. MANDELBAUM: No, although I think the United States and the Western Alliance can take some credit for, in effect, holding the line for practicing a policy of deterrence, which allowed time for the inner dynamics of communism to work themselves out, and I think the democratic example was extremely important for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. But they are the most important examples; it is probably not the United States but Western Europe and the European Union.
The success after 1945 of Western Europe and of the EU has served as a powerful beacon for the other peoples of Europe. So that is another way in which the democratic examples help spread democracy with, to be sure, a powerful assist from the United States but not solely on account of the United States.
MS. KAY: Let us talk a little bit more about the history and this fusion of these two key components of democracy that you talk about. How did -- how and when really, did they come to be joined together to create this modern concept?
MR. MANDELBAUM: A very important question. It happened rather late in history, it happened through the gradual and politically difficult extension of the franchise, that is the right to vote, in Great Britain and the United States and it was really only in the 20th century, and indeed after World War I in the case of Great Britain and after World War II in the case of the United States, that everybody, all adults, male and female could vote.
The reason there was such resistance to allowing everybody to vote was the view on the part of many people, and it was sincerely held, that if all the people could chose the government they would destroy liberty; they would trample on the liberty that was so precious to Englishmen and Americans. In particular, it was feared that they would do away with private property.
But it turned out not to be the case that popular sovereignty was incompatible with liberty, especially private property, and I believe one important reason for the compatibility of the two was the development of the Welfare State. After all the Welfare State with Social Security and Unemployment Insurance and Healthcare is a way of providing a form of property to every citizen.
And once every citizen had a certain form of property, I think the general institution of private property, which is in some ways the most controversial part of liberty, became broadly acceptable.
MS. KAY: So, it was the safety net of the modern democratic system?
MR. MANDELBAUM: I believe that that is true, and I therefore believe that in modern countries, a social safety net is a necessary component for democracy.
MS. KAY: So, that those who are least well-off don't feel that they have an axe to grind against the system itself?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes, in countries where there is very considerable economic inequality where a few people are rich and the multitudes are poor, it has proven very difficult to sustain democracy. So, there is this and other economic components to democracy besides the political part.
MS. KAY: One thing we have probably learned from President Bush's experience of the last couple of years is that, as you have suggested it is much easier to establish the principle of popular sovereignty, the right to a vote, than it is to secure the other components of democracy, which is liberty. Why is it that liberty is so hard to "export," and why does it take so long for countries to develop it themselves?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, in the book I compare the techniques of liberty to playing basketball or being a ballet dancer. It just takes a lot of work, it takes time, it is a matter of habit, it is a matter of routine, it is a matter of spreading attitudes and habits broadly across the society, it is one of those things that simply cannot be done overnight.
Now, it doesn't take forever, it took Great Britain something like 7 centuries between its first dawning of liberty with the promulgation of the Magna Carta in the 13th century to full voting rights for everybody in the 20th. It doesn't take that long but it really does take a generation because liberty requires the kinds of institutions and skills that don't spring up like mushrooms or bamboo simply overnight.
MS. KAY: You write in your book that it is almost paradoxical though we have had this growth in democracy around the world, but that the United States has failed in its most recent attempts to try to export democracy. How do you account for that paradox?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, it is a paradox and I think it has two explanations. First, where the United States is actually trying to export democracy -- by definition, democracy doesn't exist -- so, the United States has to take on the hard cases, the easy cases democratize themselves.
But second, I think it is important to note that democracy spreads by example, not by imposition. It is one of those things that flourishes if you take a kind of hands-off position, it is a little bit like the way children are, the way individuals are. People act on the basis of what they observe, not on the basis of what they are told.
MS. KAY: Welcome back, I am Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. I am joined by Michael Mandelbaum; his new book is Democracy's Good Name. We will be opening the phones in just a moment. Please call us 1800 433-8850. And if you have got any questions or comments for Michael Mandelbaum, the e-mail address as well is email@example.com.
We were talking before the break, about how the -- the easier cases had already been done, and what the U.S. was trying to do was take on the tougher cases really. Which are the toughest of the cases that the U.S. has been trying to change?
MR. MANDELBAUM: The toughest cases for promoting democracy, I think, are in the Arab world. There are a number of obstacles to democracy around the world and the Arab world is one place where virtually all of them are found; ethnic, religious and national pluralism, this alas is an obstacle to democracy.
Oil, oil for various reasons subverts the democratic process. A kind of historical antagonism toward the West and democratic values are associated with the West. So, whatever else one wishes to say about this administration's project of promoting democracy in Iraq, it certainly cannot be accused of picking an easy target.
MS. KAY: You write in the book, the free markets are a key component of democracy, which needs to come first?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Free markets, I believe are the most important source of liberty, and liberty is much more difficult as I've emphasized, to establish than popular sovereignty. So, it is really desirable for liberty to exist before popular sovereignty is established. That is the way it happened in Great Britain, that is the way it happened in the United States.
And in fact, we see, in countries that became democratic in the last quarter of the 20th century, especially in Southern Europe and East Asia, and in Latin America, a history of one or sometimes two generations of a working free market without free elections, before free elections to go forward.
So, all other things being equal, it is probably a good idea to have a working free market before you have elections but I should add that in the world of the 21st century, I don't think that is feasible. We might have had a better chance of establishing democracy in Iraq if we could have held off on elections, pacified the country, not a small task, and then allowed a free market system to take hold for 10 or 20 or 30 years. But that simply wasn't feasible.
MS. KAY: Some economists and political theorists have pointed out that one of the downsides in terms of the promotion of democracy or free markets is that they do tend to create large amounts of inequality. Could free markets in anyway undermine the spread of democracy?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, gross inequality does undermine democracy. And that is the reason that a social safety net is a necessary component for a stable political democracy. But it seems to me that economic growth that widens inequality, and that seems to be happening in many countries such as China, is not necessarily an obstacle to democracy if the economic growth is broadly, if not entirely evenly shared.
That is, if the rising economic tide lifts all or most votes, even if it lifts some higher than others, that is not necessarily a hindrance to democracy. But marked inequality, especially marked economic inequality, surely is a barrier.
MS. KAY: Was the Welfare State -- the existence of an effective Welfare State, the flaw in Karl Marx's vision?
MR. MANDELBAUM: There were two flaws in Marx's vision but that was surely the most important one. The other one was the underestimation of just how broad capitalist-led growth would be even without the Welfare State.
But as you recall, Marx's believe that the workings of the capitalist economy would concentrate more and more wealth in a few hands and impoverish the many and that would lead to a spontaneous uprising. And surely it would have led to a spontaneous uprising if that is the way economic history had worked out in Europe. But it didn't in no small part as you rightly point out, to the establishment of the Welfare State.
And I should add, and I note in Democracy's Good Name that while the Welfare State is generally regarded as a “progressive,” innovation. It actually had rather conservative origins. One of the fathers of the Welfare State was the conservative German chancellor at the end of the 19th century, Bismarck, who established it precisely to keep the German working class from overthrowing the autocratic government that he served.
MS. KAY: In more modern days, President Bush, in promoting democracy around the world, the -- one of the tenets of his reason for doing so is the theory that democracies are more peaceful, are they?
MR. MANDELBAUM: In general, I think, and I devote a chapter of Democracy's Good Name to this point, that democracies do tend to be more peaceful, although I have to add a couple of caveats. One is that the democracies that are peaceful are full-fledged democracies; they have both liberty and popular sovereignty. There are studies that show that elections, even free elections without liberty, can actually raise the chances of conflict and war. So, that's one caveat.
The other caveat is that democracy is not an absolute guarantee against war because there is no such thing and indeed the growth of democracy in the last part of the 20th century has in a few ways, in a few cases, made the world perhaps somewhat less peaceful because autocratic governments that feel threatened by democracy -- and this is surely the case in the Arab world -- which fights with other countries or raise the specter of external danger as a way of rallying popular support for themselves and deflecting the anger that would otherwise be directed at them.
MS. KAY: So, are you suggesting that in cases like the Palestinian territories, perhaps in Lebanon and Iraq, you wouldn't have such violent governments if those leaders didn't feel the need to put themselves up before election to the general public?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes, I think that that is the case and it is also the case, for example, in China, where I think the emphasis on the Taiwan question stems in part from the fact that this is not a legitimately elected government.
MS. KAY: What else, do you think, the United States and others, other Western governments could learn about democracy and about the export of democracy from the cases of, for example, Hamas?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, the most important lesson for us to learn is that if an individual or a group is not committed to liberty, that individual or group is not a democrat and is not going to preside over a democratic government if elected to office.
In the case of Hamas, the organization's charter does not recognize equal rights for women and does not recognize equal rights for non-Muslims. In other words, it ignores one of the central tenets of liberty, which is religious freedom. And without religious freedom, you don't have liberty and without liberty you don't have democracy.
So, at the very least we should understand that when we are dealing with such movements, whatever we decide to do based on all the considerations that come to bear, we're not dealing with democrats.
MS. KAY: The other thing that strikes me that we have learned from the case of Iraq, in particular, and I remember so well those pictures of Iraqis very proudly coming out with their purple finger, was that voting in itself doesn't bring people security, it doesn't turn the lights on, it doesn't give you clean water, that there was serious weaknesses with the concept itself.
MR. MANDELBAUM: There is no doubt and this is a important theme of Democracy's Good Name that elections by themselves do not constitute democracy. In order to be a full-fledged democracy, a country does have to have a freely elected government, but just having a freely elected government does not make a country a democracy, and as you point out, having a freely elected government doesn't necessarily solve all problems or even make conditions more stable.
I think the fact that India, a very poor country, became and has generally remained a democracy is been very important for the spread of democracy, and as I noted, the remarkable success of Western Europe and the European Union has served as a powerful and decisive example for peoples living east of the European Union.
MS. KAY: What about the Middle East? We touched on it earlier and why that's been such a tough nut to crack in terms of democracy, and you mentioned oil, is that the defining factor of the Middle East that's made it hard?
MR. MANDELBAUM: It has certainly made the promotion of democracy far more difficult. Oil is antithetical to democracy because democracy and especially liberty, thrives when there is a real market economy because the skills and institutions needed to operate a market economy when transferred to the political sphere, lend themselves to democratic politics.
Well, if you have oil you don't need those institutions and skills, you don't have to develop a full-fledged market economy, you don't need the rule of law, you don't need investment, you don't need to build trust in contracts --
MS. KAY: So, you're effectively bribing your population?
MR. MANDELBAUM: You're bribing your population rather than forcing them to become citizens in order to gain their livelihood.
MS. KAY: In Iraq though, it's not a question of oil, it's more a question of ethnic differences isn't it, that's a separate case?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes. Well, Iraq is doubly cursed. It had oil for a very long time and of course still has oil although it's not pumping up to its capacity, but it also has sharp ethnic differences and ethnic differences, alas, make it difficult to sustain democracy. It's not impossible; there are multinational democracies in Europe, such as Switzerland.
But it does make it more difficult for several reasons one of which is that in order to live in a democracy you have to be willing to be part of a minority, and in order to be part of a minority you have to trust the majority not to damage your interests.
In Iraq, for whatever combination of historical reasons that kind of trust just doesn't seem to be present among the three major groups.
MS. KAY: Okay Doug, two points there; is there a confusion between democracy and the economic system, and democracy and the cultural system?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, democracy is aided by a free market because, as I say, what almost everybody -- although apparently this caller -- means by democracy includes liberty. We do not regard tyranny of the majority as a democracy. We would not have regarded Nazi Germany as a democracy even though the Nazis were elected to power.
Now, it turns out that every real democracy in the 21st century has a market economy. But, not all countries with market economies are democracies and historically most countries that have had market economies have not been democracies.
So, there is no necessary correlation, but what I found and what I write in Democracy's Good Name is that the working of a market economy over time tends to generate the institutions and have its, in the economics sphere that transferred to the political sphere, encourage and foster democratic politics.
MS. KAY: I want to get back to something Doug said at the beginning of his call there, which is that this President has undermined democratic freedoms here in the United States.
Do you see, not necessarily just with this President, but long-term, any real risks to democracy in the U.S.?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, the boundaries of liberty are always contested during wartime because during wartime people feel threatened and they feel that it maybe necessary to suspend or restrict some liberties in the name of self-defense, and that has happened throughout American history. In the Civil War, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, in World War II President Roosevelt interned legitimate, legal, American citizens of Japanese ancestry.
So, this happens all the time and it's hardly surprising that the War on Terror generated the same movement. I must say that from my point of view, that movement -- that movement to restrict somewhat American liberties is much more modest this time, than it has been in previous wars, which indicates that people feel far less threatened today than they did in the 1940s or the 1860s.
But there is also always a push back when people say, no, we're not so threatened, let's not restrict liberties, but that has happened historically and it's happening now.
What do you think the prospects are for Russia?
MR. MANDELBAUM: In Democracy's Good Name, I am rather optimistic, surprisingly optimistic -- surprising even to myself about the prospects for democracy in Russia over the long-term, not immediately. It's not a democracy now and in some ways it's been going backward on the democracy front since the end of the Soviet Union. But I'm relatively optimistic about Russian democracy, say 20, 25, 30 years from now for several reasons.
First, all of the obstacles to western-style government that were present throughout Russian history are now gone. It's not a nation of illiterate peasants, it doesn't have an antidemocratic ideology such as Marxism-Leninism, it's not threatened by its neighbors and external threats are always an excuse for dictatorship so that's one reason.
Another reason is that Russia is really building a market economy slowly and in a kind of sloppy way, nonetheless Russia is moving toward what we in the West would regard as a normal economic life. And third, I don't take the current leaders in Russia seriously, as a group that's going to wrench Russia into some other alternative path.
I think they're simply to put -- to put it bluntly, thieves and there have been lots of thieves running countries that ultimately turned into democracies.
MS. KAY: How legitimate is it when you're looking at a country and it's aptitude for democracy to talk about national generalizations? I know people looking at Russia for example, often say, well this is a country where -- Russians prefer a strong leader, they value that more than they want the benefits that come from democracy, are those gross generalizations?
MR. MANDELBAUM: They are gross generalizations; I think they are not all together wrong. History and culture do matter, the past does matter but it's also the case that people can change because society has changed. If we look at western societies we can observe remarkable change in our own lifetimes on such fundamental issues as attitude towards women and attitude towards non-whites.
The world of the 21st century is a fast changing one. Russia is not immune to those changes. When people have different experiences from their parents and their forbearers they develop different attitudes.
So, although I don't think we can expect to see democracy spring up full-blown in Russia any time soon, over the course of several decades, it's not unreasonable to have an expectation that it may arise.
MS. KAY: Although you write in the book that Russian democracy could be hampered -- curiously, or perhaps not so curiously, given what you've said about the Middle East by the price of oil at the moment?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes, petro states, countries that rely on oil as I've noted a moment ago, and as I explain in Democracy's Good Name, are not good candidates to be democracy. They subvert the institutions and attitudes that are necessary for democracy and Russia does have a lot of oil and a lot of energy.
So, there's a sense in which Russia's prospects for democracy are inversely related to the price of oil.
MS. KAY: So, you say prospect's pretty good for Russia, you think? What about the -- perhaps the big question of this century; what the chances are for democracy in China?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes, China is the biggest test case and it's a test case of the argument that a market economy promotes democracy because China has rapidly accumulated the various components -- not all of them but most of them -- of a market economy over the last 25 years and has grown rapidly and has begun to produce something that historically is very favorable for the prospects of democracy, namely a middle class. And I think there is no doubt that China is a far freer country today than it was 3 decades ago under Mao Tse-Tung, in large part because of it's market economy.
Having said that though, I can not say and I do not say in Democracy's Good Name that China is guaranteed to become a full-fledged democracy for two reasons. First, because nothing in history is guaranteed, but second because there is a formidable obstacle to democracy in the form of the Chinese Communist Party, which seems determined to retain a monopoly of political power in its own hands and clearly has some resources for doing so.
MS. KAY: One area of the world we haven't talked about is Africa and Amy writes to us a question about that. “A number of African countries have a so-called democracy where they have officially adopted democracy, but in reality the government's more of a dictatorship. Would it be helpful to become involved in these types of nations to help promote true democracy or do you think it would lead to the same tensions and problems as creating a democracy in a country that previously wasn't?”
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, I think that in countries such as those in Africa, American foreign policy can have only a marginal impact on the choice and direction of political system. After all, we haven't been able to determine the political system in countries we've actually occupied such as Haiti, Somalia, and Iraq.
Africa, I think, in general -- and of course there are many countries in Africa that vary greatly -- but, Africa suffers from two problems where democracy is concerned. One is poverty. All our studies show that a country is more likely to be a working democracy the richer it is, and economic growth is a great promoter of democracy.
So, if and as African countries develop, these sham democratic institutions are likely to become real ones. Second, Africa is plagued with ethnic, religious, and tribal divisions and as I've noted these divisions make the construction of democracy, not impossible, but difficult.
MS. KAY: Okay, let's go back to the phones now. John in Fort Worth, Texas; John, you're on the air.
JOHN: Hi, good morning.
MS. KAY: Good morning.
JOHN: First of all, I wanted to thank you for the program and I have to say, I haven't read the book so you'd have to forgive me for not being familiar with it, but I would like your guest to comment on this issue.
Looking at what the war in Iraq has done for our economy, I would like your guest to comment on the how the spreading of democracy, the idea, could be used as a front for basically advancing our own economic growth abroad. I mean, in countries in Africa, for example, that, you know, the spread of democracy has not been so successful, I think because there is probably not as much economic dependency on them as it is on the Middle East, which we're so concerned about.
MS. KAY: Okay.
JOHN: And if you would, I'll take the answer off the air, thank you.
MS. KAY: Okay, John, thanks very much. There is a problem isn't there for American attempts generally, to try to spread democracy when America's own reputation around the world is so poor that democracy itself, as an ideal, becomes tarnished?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, as I've said, I think democracy as an ideal is sufficiently firmly rooted and broadly based and sufficiently widespread that it really doesn't depend all that much on the reputation of the United States although people who for whatever reason are opposed to democracy will certainly use criticism of the United States to try to discredit it.
One of the implications of my findings in Democracy's Good Name is that the United States can't do all that much directly to spread democracy even when the American reputation is good, and I think it's also the case that when the American reputation is poor that probably doesn't have all that great an effect on democracy's prospects either.
MS. KAY: So what America does, frankly, doesn't make much difference either way?
MR. MANDELBAUM: What America does can make a big indirect difference. The United States did a great deal for democracy during the Cold War by defending democratic countries against undemocratic ones.
And the United States can do a lot for democracy by example, although it's not just the American example that counts, and I think the United States can give a "nudge" forward to democracy by encouraging a market economy.
You may remember that in the 1990s there was a great debate about normal trade status for China and those who proposed that China should have normal trading status argued that this was a way of promoting democratic values.
Of course many of those people were also interested in their economic interest but, nonetheless, I found in Democracy's Good Name that there is something to that argument, that by economic engagement in China, we are improving the chances for democracy to come to that country.
We don't guarantee it -- that will be decided by the Chinese but I think spreading the free market is not only good for other countries economically but it's good from our point of view, for them politically.
MS. KAY: Let's open the phones again, Natalie in Wichita Falls, Texas. Natalie, I know you've been waiting a long time, thanks for your patience, you're on the air.
NATALIE: Thank you very much, Katty Kay. First, though, I'll throw you a compliment, you're doing a smashing job sitting in for Diane Rehm today.
MS. KAY: You're very kind.
NATALIE: Now, let me move on to my point, share some comments for your guest, just -- first, technically speaking, America is a Republic and of course Americans believe in democracy. We live and breathe this through -- capitalism in this nation.
Comparatively speaking, we're a very young nation here, so we very much believe in democracy, and remember now initially people were fleeing from something and running towards something else when they headed for this nation.
Now, I feel it's really unrealistic that everyone wants democracy especially in the Middle East. We must remember that Mesopotamia, probably be considered the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian Society, and in my mind we are treating democracy, right now, like a pizza. We wish to deliver it to someone's doorstep.
Well, maybe other people don't like or understand the ingredients. The Middle East is bound to religion. They do not understand freedom of religion, and its part of the Shariat Law, for example, why do people take the hajj, why do they give alms? They're bound to religion.
MS. KAY: Okay.
NATALIE: So, I think it's a very, very unrealistic notion to push.
MS. KAY: Okay Natalie, lot of points there that you raised; an unrealistic notion to push democracy to start with.
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, I like the caller's line that democracy is not like a pizza, it can't be delivered. I wish I'd heard that before writing the book, I surely would have put it in. I'll save it for the paperback edition but that's quite right.
Democracy is more like a tree, you have to plant the seeds, and water it, and tend it, and perhaps protect it against predators, and hope that the soil is fertile.
MS. KAY: And is it also true that in some areas of the world -- and there is an e-mail about this too -- where religion dominates, that makes the spread of -- where the religion is the national system of government, for example, Israel, that makes the system of democracy any harder or not?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Well, a religion is not a basis of the Israeli State, it's the basis of Israeli nationality, just as German nationality is the basis for Germany and Italian nationality is the basis for Italy.
Israel, does accord some special role to religion but then so does Germany with its public sponsorship of Churches and so for a long time did and still officially does Great Britain, with its established Church. But Israel was founded by atheists, as a matter of fact and Israel is a working democracy.
But, where you have religion permeating the state, where an official religion is not only part of the constitution, but leads to discrimination against people of different faiths and where religion determines issues that in other places an elected legislature has jurisdiction over, there democracy is very difficult.
Let's go to David in Raleigh, North Carolina. David, you're on the air.
DAVID: Oh, thank you.
MS. KAY: You're welcome.
DAVID: I'll try to keep it brief. Due to the difficulty in promoting democracy that your guest has been talking about I wonder if he would agree that the United States instead focusing on importing democracy or exporting democracy would be better served in the same direction by focusing on Human Rights and, you know, insisting that other nations follow certain principles of Human Rights and not worry about how you, you know, what form your government takes, and Human Rights would start with of course with prisoners as it -- prisoners and prisoners of war?
MS. KAY: David, that's an interesting point. What do you think?
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yeah, very good question. Human rights are certainly important and I regard Human Rights as part of liberty and liberty is, of course, as I emphasize in Democracy's Good Name, half of democracy, and I think it is also important insofar as the United States promotes democracy, to give at least as great emphasis to liberty as to elections and perhaps more.
So, I think we ought to promote democracy in two ways, first with a proper sense of the limits of America's power to do so and second with an emphasis on liberty, religious freedom, and economic liberty, as well as political freedom. Elections are important but they are not the only thing that's important.
MS. KAY: David, does that answer your question?
DAVID: Yes it does, thank you.
MS. KAY: Thank you very much. Let's go to Robell in Centerville, Virginia. Robell, you're on the air.
ROBELL: Good morning, Ms. Kay and Mr. Mandelbaum, it's an excellent show; quick two comments here. The first comment actually has been hit upon by previous callers, is America leading them by example?
This current administration, President Bush administration is not leading by example, truly promoting democracy because in his own elections, I think particularly in the 2000 elections with -- their problems with the (inaudible) as the democracies -- that makeup in the greatest democracy as that as being his problem, compare that to Third World's elections to -- stuffing ballots.
The second point I want to make is that, as to democracy in Africa that you probably mean that there's problems with ethnicity and then poverty; the first thing that you forgot to mention, I think is the important point is that the turning a blind eye towards our interest, America's interest. We turn a blind eye to terrorists and dictators. If there's a dictator -- if the dictator is terrorizing his own people and we turn a blind eye to that because that dictator will just say, “Hey, listen” -- as in the case of Ethiopia, I see three of Al-Qaeda members in Somalia, I'll go get them for you maybe -- and then all of a sudden --
MS. KAY: Okay, Robell, we -- Robell, we are running out of time so I'm just going to quickly put your comment there to Michael Mandelbaum.
MR. MANDELBAUM: Yes, well those -- those were comments. On the last point, I do note in Democracy's Good Name, that although the promotion of democracy has consistently been important in American foreign policy really since the beginning of the Republic, it's almost never been the primary purpose of American foreign policy and even in Iraq, the original reason for going to war was not to promote democracy but rather to deal with a security threat to the United States.
MS. KAY: Okay, Michael Mandelbaum. His new book is Democracy's Good Name and of course it comes at a very opportune moment, when promoting democracy has been a key tenant of this particular President.
I'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm, thank you all for listening and joining us.
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