The song never ends, and the melody lingers on. David Brooks’s paternalism, racism etc. have an impressive consistency. The phrases that most give away the attitudes are in boldface.
. . .While Fatah and Hamas are rivals, neither has a democratic mentality. Democracy in its everyday manifestation is bourgeois and unheroic. It is about partial victories, partial defeats and issues that are never resolved and never go away.
Yet a democratic tide is sweeping the globe, promoted not only by the U.S. but by the spirit of the times, and an election came to Palestine. Voters had to choose between two revolutionary movements, one corrupt and one attentive to their needs.
Such bad choices are becoming common across the Arab world. Democratic success depends on democratic voters and leaders, but those voters and leaders can’t be created amid tyrants and terrorists. Under these conditions, the transition to democracy is like building a plane during takeoff.
But flight has begun and the democratic transition hurtles on. Palestine is entering the most traumatic phase, when a romantic, revolutionary people is compelled to transform itself into an ordinary, democratic polity. . . .
. . .Europe never held Arafat and his successors accountable for their corruption, lies and killing. But Palestinian voters, beginning their democratic self-education, have.
The first thing we can do now is to in turn hold the Palestinian people accountable for their choice. By clearly and steadfastly isolating Hamas, we can remind Palestinian voters that their choices too have consequences, that in democracy radical options are self-destructive, even if they make you feel good at the time.
. . .Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.
The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not. . . .
. . .As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.
We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.
. . .Those who emphasize process have said that the government of President Mohamed Morsi was freely elected and that its democratic support has been confirmed over and over. The most important thing, they say, is to protect the fragile democratic institutions and to oppose those who would destroy them through armed coup.
Democracy, the argument goes, will eventually calm extremism. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood may come into office with radical beliefs, but then they have to fix potholes and worry about credit ratings and popular opinion. Governing will make them more moderate.
Those who emphasize substance, on the other hand, argue that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are defined by certain beliefs. They reject pluralism, secular democracy and, to some degree, modernity. When you elect fanatics, they continue, you have not advanced democracy. You have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy. The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup. The goal is to weaken political Islam, by nearly any means.
World events of the past few months have vindicated those who take the substance side of the argument. It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death. . . .
. . .Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them. . . .
. . .It’s no use lamenting Morsi’s bungling because incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam. We’ve seen that in Algeria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt: real-world, practical ineptitude that leads to the implosion of the governing apparatus. . . .
. . .This week’s military coup may merely bring Egypt back to where it was: a bloated and dysfunctional superstate controlled by a self-serving military elite. But at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office. . . .
. . .There are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical ideahow to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail or forced into exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.
It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seemsto lack even the basic mental ingredients.