Friday, January 27, 2006

Democracy With a Lid On It

The rich and the various assorted enablers-of-the-rich were all there in Davos, Switzerland this week, while the previously-disenfranchised milled around various Palestinian polling places. Both events were (and are) experiments in, or the results of, ventures in democracy that were unheard of a half century ago.


The casting out of dictators in Asia, along with China’s moderation into a wannabe consumer-based economy has brought immense capital wealth to the Far East. The lid is certainly off (or nearly off) that trembling, boiling pot that is the masses of Asia. Nearby, in the Middle East, the steam is rising—a pressure-cooker, whose clamped-down lid seeks out an early release of pressure in the Stans, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, in an effort to avoid explosion.


Far East and Middle East are works-in-progress and, while the short-term results may be subject to whims of capital or forces of rhetoric and bias , there is no denying their progress toward democracy in the long run. This is not a Bush-administration achievement, it’s been a long time in the making and its roots can be found in the Marshall Plan that followed WWII.


DrklausschwabThere wouldn’t be a World Economic Forum in Davos without Klaus Schwab. Born in 1938 in Ravensburg, Germany, his academic laurels, U.N. credentials and worldwide honors stun the ordinary imagination. Certainly nothing would have held such a man back, but European Marshall Plan recovery thrust him forward.


The Asian attendees at Davos are progressions of the Japanese miracle and the Japanese miracle is the work of two war-makers, generals George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur. Two victors-turned-philanthropists in the first such event ever recorded in the history of the world.


It doesn’t surprise me that the leading economy in the world is American. We were the only industrial nation left standing at the end of WWII, profited from that happenstance and never looked back. But I find it fascinating and of great historic interest that second in the world is Japan and third, Germany. The second greatest and third greatest economic powers on the planet are the losers of the greatest war in history. That’s using ‘greatest’ three times in one sentence, but it’s a mind-bending sentence.


Which brings us, inevitably, to Palestine and the recent election that has so shaken the free world.


HamasvotePalestine and most all of the Middle East for that matter, were the passed-by of American largesse after WWII. They simply weren’t important enough, nor were they badly enough damaged to be a focus of economic aid. Who knew the role oil would play? We had our own oil, Texas was full of it.


Left to stew in their own cultural juices, certainly without much American concern and subject to a constant selling off of their rights to suit our needs, they no longer fit into the neat little box of logical definition. And so, as democratic election comes haltingly, to first one and then another angry and abused population, the results serve a self-interest we are not equipped to recognize.


How could we? We made a foreign policy of neglect, fostered oil-rich dictatorships in power ‘balances,’ armed the area to the teeth and made of it an socio-economic disaster. The Middle East was the Marshall Plan not offered and perhaps a mirror to what might have been in Europe and Asia, had they been similarly neglected.


Davos is the proof that social and economic inclusion are more powerful than men and nations. The democracies that have thrived have come not at the point of a sword, but at the offer of a job. Those who are disgusted with the Palestinians voting-in Hamas would do well to realize that Hamas supported schools and charities that Yasser Arafat ignored. For forty years.


Some principles are the same in Palestine or Singapore, Davos or Detroit. Lids on freedoms eventually come off (or are blown off) and given an opportunity, men and women will vote in their own best self-interest.


And that, ultimately, saves us all.
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More at my personal web site about what interests me in International Affairs.