Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overthrow of a Despotic Government—Does It Do Any Good?

Ever since the administration of Woodrow Wilson, Americans have been enamored by the idea that overthrow of a despotic government will advance democracy and make the world a safer place to live.

To examine this idea, we should look back to history. In 1917, Wilson proclaimed that "heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia." He was referring to the Bolshevik victory over the czar. That move paved the way for a totalitarian tyranny that killed more political prisoners in a year than the czars had killed in more than 90 years.

Although Wilson proclaimed that the First World War was being fought because "The world must be made safe for democracy," in reality the overthrow of autocratic rule in Germany and Italy led to totalitarian regimes that were far worse. Those today who assume that the overthrow of authoritarian governments in Egypt, Libya, and Syria is a movement toward democracy are following in Wilson's footsteps.

President Wilson is often charged with getting the U.S. into World War I; and secondarily into World War II as a result of that first great war; but the truth must be told. Wilson tried hard to keep the U.S. out of WW I. When, finally, the war forced itself on America, Wilson mobilized the nation to fight it with all our might. The thing that caused WW II was not WW I, it was the ill-conceived treaty of Versailles at the end of that war, which Wilson vehemently opposed until he became so ill that he could no longer negotiate a more effective and sane conclusion to the great war.

Well…we are still involved in the controversy. Will overthrow of autocratic regimes in the Middle East make the world a safer place to live? I certainly think the threat of a nuclear Iran needs to be effectively addressed; but I wonder if Muslim countries are ready and able to accommodate democracy. Hmmm….?

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