Wednesday, June 18, 2014
"It was Blair who, when the dictator Mubarak was first threatened by Egypt's revolution, described the threatened despot as "immensely courageous and a force for good". It was he who, as the democratic crowds surged in Tahrir Square, warned that Egypt was characteristic of a problem in the Middle East where an "elite ... has an open-minded attitude" whereas "popular opinion" entertains "the wrong idea and a closed idea". He argued against aligning with the revolution, saying: "The danger is if you open up a vacuum, anything can happen." Blair's other favoured enlightened dictatorships included Colonel Gaddafi and the Saudi regime. About the latter he said, when challenged about its penchant for beheadings and limb amputations: "They have their culture, their way of life."
"Blair is only the most strident advocate of this perspective. The US vice-president, Joe Biden, rallied to Mubarak's defence when his rule was threatened, denied that he was a dictator, and stressed that he was "an ally of ours". And the list of those who cosied up to Gaddafi is long. This is merely to scratch the surface of such complicity, which evinces not democratic messianism, but cultural condescension of the sort that has always characterised both liberal internationalism and the neoconservatism with which it shares a vocabulary. Blair and his ilk are not democrats, but liberals. For the people of the Middle East, they only favour democracy if it can help legitimise liberal capitalist regimes. But, like Friedrich Hayek when asked about his support for Pinochet, they prefer a dictatorship to a democracy lacking liberalism."
I have the advantage here of being able to quote liberal statesmen in their substantive elaborations, as opposed to their sloganistic exhortations. But could they have put the point more starkly than Paddy Ashdown? This is him in The Guardian during the height of the occupation:
"To succeed in Iraq we will have to do deals with some distasteful people ... The US very publicly went into Iraq to bring democracy to the region. The Western World [sic] may support that. But none of Iraq’s neighbours do. We may have to subordinate the rhetoric of democracy for the Middle East to the need to find a regional solution for Iraq."
A frank statement of the facts. Democracy, self-government, is legitimising rhetoric. A liberal world order not only does not need it, but would find it more convenient if people could live without it.