Winston Churchill once famously said that “democracy is a terrible system of government but it is better than any other system.” The irony of that statement has been borne out by the past events of this last century and by current events.
It is true that Hitler ruled as a megalomaniac dictator. However, his rise to power was by democratic means and through electoral success. Once in power, he naturally did away with the nuisance of elections. But if it were not for the Nazi party’s success in the German elections in the years immediately preceding his ascension to becoming the Chancellor of Germany, he never would have been able to achieve that office.
We are currently witness to the imperfections and failures of the democratic process as they affect the Middle East. Iraq’s democratically elected government is apparently so corrupt and powerless that the country itself is literally falling apart in civil strife and ethnic conflict. Syria’s sham elections have given Assad a third term as president and the right to preside over a civil war that has already taken the lives of approximately one-hundred-fifty thousand Syrians and sent millions of others into what will undoubtedly be permanent exile and refugee status.
Three years ago Egypt democratically elected the Moslem Brotherhood to lead its country. Only the interference of its military, which overthrew that democratically elected government, somehow stabilized the country and prevented further catastrophe in the area. And lest we forget, Hamas was democratically elected to govern by the people of the Gaza Strip.
Once in power, again like Hitler’s Germany, no new elections have ever been held in Gaza. Nevertheless, Hamas came to power in a legitimate democratic election. Would that that electoral result could somehow have been reversed!
For almost eighty years, Turkey was governed by an autocratic, secular, military government devoted to bringing Turkey into the Western world and minimizing the insidious influence of militant Islamists. All forms of public display of religion were forbidden and Turkey became a member of NATO and was deemed a westernized country.
During this time, Turkey, an overwhelmingly Moslem country, maintained excellent relations – diplomatic, military and economic - with the State of Israel and world Jewry generally. All of this changed within the last decade when the military abdicated its ruling role in favor of more democratic rule and allowed elections for the leadership of the country to take place.
In those elections, the Islamist parties came to power and leader of the country became Erdogan. There is no longer any doubt that he is an inveterate anti-Semite and he has reversed Turkey's long-standing relationship with Israel. His statements regarding Israel border on the hysterical.
He has involved Turkey in the Syrian civil war and is fighting his own civil war with the Kurdish minority of his country. He is certainly leading Turkey down a path of loss of regional influence in the Middle East, diplomatic isolation and economic ruin. Yet, again, he was democratically elected and claims that he has a mandate for all his evil and unwise domestic and foreign policies.
Turkey has now aligned itself fully and almost fanatically with Hamas and is the source of relentless anti-Israel agitation in the Moslem and European world, even outdoing Iran in virulence and vitriol. It seems that the establishment of Turkish democracy has brought ruin to all concerned. That is a most sobering thought.
This is not a plea for the restoration of autocracy, absolute monarchy or any other form of authoritarian rule. It merely points out the dangers and imperfections that are part and parcel of democratic rule. It may very well be that, God willing soon, after the current Gaza war ends and the physical and emotional wreckage that Hamas has brought upon so many millions of people is tallied and recognized, it would nevertheless win an election in Gaza.
The wisdom of the masses is always questionable and unreliable. Yet, who is wise enough to know what is the best form of rule for those who live in Gaza? Israeli military government is certainly not an attractive option or solution. Abbas and his feckless Palestinian Authority would undoubtedly prove to be unpopular, corrupt and inefficient.
The British mandate is never going to be restored and UN peacekeepers have proven to be anything but keepers of the peace. So, now what? We live in an age where there are no simple or logical answers to any of the vexing issues that assail us from all directions. We should be very wary in confidently predicting that democracy and/or any other form of rule will somehow ameliorate the situation here in the Middle East. Democracy has worked wonders for the State of Israel. It has not done so well for any of our neighbors. Only time will tell how this drama will finally work itself out.