Would Democracy in Morocco be a Good Thing?
Would Democracy in Morocco be a Good Thing?
Sunday, September 30,2007 13:01
By Shadi Hamid

Last week, some of you may have read the piece I co-wrote with Jeb Koogler on the “myth of Moroccan democracy.” Michael Van Der Galien posted a quick response where he expresses the concern that “[Shadi and Jeb] seem to assume that full democratization is in the interest of the Moroccan people, and in that of the West. The question whether or not this is true, however, remains.” Yes, the question for better or worse (probably worse) remains. I have given my own answer in past articles, including here, here, and here, where I lay out the case that Middle East democracy is in the long-term strategic interest of the West (to say nothing of the moral component).

Van Der Galien goes on to make the following claim, which strikes me as not a very nice thing to say about Moroccans (and, by extension, Arabs and Muslims):

I don’t believe that full democracy is in Morocco"s best interest, nor in the best interest of the West. A large part of the Moroccan people is uneducated and socially extremely conservative (read strict, strict Muslims). They barely know how to take care of their own family. Should people like that be allowed to determine the fate of an entire country?

Jeb Koogler, my co-author, has already ably responded to Van Der Galien here. A few additional comments, though, are in order. Yes, people like that should be allowed to determine the fate of an entire country. The American people voted for Bush two times (or maybe just once), but that doesn’t disqualify them from voting. People have the right to make the wrong choice, and such a right – as a matter of principle – must be unwaveringly protected. Moreover, democracies where the populace is largely poor or uneducated aren’t limited to the Middle East. In fact, it’s probably more of a problem in many emerging African, Latin American, and Asian democracies (India being the most obvious example), where the economic situation and the sheer level of economic inequality is considerably higher than it is in the Middle East.

The crux of Van Der Galien’s argument, however, is this: “What the West should push for are: support for its own agenda and interests; resistence of terrorism and extremism; respect for human rights. We are best served with stability, not with Islamists ruling in the name of democracy.” This line of argument could not be more wrong. The West has been pushing for “its own agenda and interests” in the Middle East for the last five decades, and that hasn’t worked out too well, has it? After all, it was this Middle East – the one where we opted for “stability” over democracy – that produced the rise of jihadism and salafism, and gave us 9/11. In short, the kind of policy Van Der Galien would like to see is the kind of policy which has made the region the veritable powder keg it is today. Not only do Arabs suffer the consequences; we suffer them as well.