So – if you’ve been reading the news lately, then you know that Egypt is in the process of burning to the ground right now. Certain leftists on Live Journal would like for me to celebrate this “popular uprising” against Mubarak as an expression of the very “democracy” that we hawks champion, but I’m afraid I can’t do that without pointing out the ways this could go horribly, horribly wrong.
Consider what a recent Pew poll discovered about the Muslim majority in Egypt. While that majority favors “democratic government” (59%), they also support:
- Gender segregation in the workplace (54%).
- Stoning as a punishment for adultery (82%).
- Whipping/cutting off hands for theft (77%).
- The death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion (84%).
The ballot box does not a liberal democracy make. This is something that the international left repeatedly fails to grok. Over and over again, said leftists have claimed that duly elected socialists are “democratic” even when those socialists are guilty of numerous human rights abuses (see also: Hugo Chavez). But democracy is not established by the mere act of voting. Voting is just a surface feature of liberal democracy. Liberal democracy is a complex system comprised of the following obligatory elements:
- The rule of law, not men.
- The separation of powers (so that no one person or group has absolute control).
- Checks and balances (so that, again, power is not concentrated in one person or group).
- Respect for the rights of minority populations.
If a government fails to reflect these four key principles, it doesn’t matter whether it was “elected.” It’s still not a democracy.
I honestly want Egyptian small-l liberals to succeed in overthrowing Mubarak and installing a truly democratic goverment. The moralist in me believes we shouldn’t tolerate Mubarak’s thugocracy for another minute. But if, after ousting Mubarak from power, the Egyptian electorate then proceeds to vote for the full enforcement of sharia, that will not be a victory for democracy. If the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to participate in a future election and wins, that will not be a victory for democracy. That will be the worst case scenario.