The Road to Democracy: A US Citizen’s Perspective

Maroc Mama explores the potential effects of the Tunisian revolution on American foreign policy.

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Wife, mom, student, activist, traveler, Moroccophile and curious spirit 21 comments

Sunday, January 16th, 2011


Earlier this week, President Obama addressed the United States in regard to the shooting that took place in Arizona last weekend. While slightly jaded at the Presidents’ responses recently to events around the world I tried to listen with an open mind. As he eulogized the young girl who lost her life, tears came to my eyes for the children around the world killed senselessly simply for being caught in the middle of adult conflicts.

The President stated “We should do everything to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.” I would say we should do everything to make sure this world lives up to our children’s expectations. It is with a heavy heart I have to confess my country has failed me in this. Once an optimistic, world-loving, aspiring politician, a few years of life in Washington DC and frustration over hypocrisy has left me hardened. In recent weeks I began to see news of the strikes in Tunisia popping up in my Twitter feed. Little by little the pieces of the story came out and I scoured American news sources for coverage. Only to find none.

Now as Tunisians have finally ousted their President/dictator sources are picking up the story. The New York Times, Foreign Policy and NPR, especially their online reporters, were consistently active in the scene. With the departure of Ben Ali, the traditional evening news dedicated a few minutes to discuss the story. I question why the mainstream media and US government remained largely silent for so long. Secretary Clinton went so far as to say we won’t choose sides. When the Iran protests began after their most recent election every major media source was in Tehran and Washington was giddy with the prospect of a democratic revolution. Of course we’re America we love democracy, we love freedom! We love free speech and the right to protest and assemble…but wait isn’t that what the Tunisian people want? Throw in the right to work, the ability to provide for your family and freedom from police brutality, sounds down right Tocquevillian…

This should have had Washington salivating. It is the first post-colonial democratic revolution in an Arab country! The people of Tunisia want democracy for themselves and while I think it is safe to argue no one in Tunisia was asking for American intervention, certainly the recognition and celebration of their right to self-determination would have been welcome. If the Tunisian revolution succeeds in establishing a democratic stronghold in the region it seems only a matter of time before other regional neighbors attempt to follow in their footsteps. The United States should understand that democracy cannot come to a nation through force (as can be seen by the relative failures in Afghanistan and Iraq) but rather should be supported when citizens make the move for self-determination. Instead of imposing our will we should celebrate with and give support to our global neighbors when they make their own choice for freedom.

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Posted on Sunday, January 16th, 2011

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21 comments on “The Road to Democracy: A US Citizen’s Perspective”

  1. Experience shows that every time an Arab country “make their own choice”, it results in an openly antisemitic, sexist theocracy that the secular elite flees as fast as possible. I hope Tunisian democracy proves exceptional.

    And shame on you for comparing Tunisia to Iran! I’ll tell you what…if you like Iran so much, why don’t you go live there? It is sickening to read such concentrate of moral relativism. Also…it’s your omnipotent omniscient god who’s allowing children to be caught in the middle of adult conflicts.

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?” Epicurus


    • I really would not take the Palestinian elections or the Iranian revolution in the late 70’s for that matter as a barometer, especially when the Iranian democracy was literally overthrown by a coup d’état backed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency of the then democratically elected Prime Minister DR. Mohammad Mosaddegh. The PLO was so corrupt, impotent and irrelevant that any opposition would have defeated it. This is more and indictment on the secular movement’s inability in the region and failure to form any grassroots movements that could shape a credible opposition, that is not perceived as in cahoots with the authoritarian regimes in place.
      Moreover, the Islamist movements were always well funded either by the US to stop the spread of communism or by many Gulf States generous donors for dogmatic motives. Hence, providing many social services that national governments failed to provide to their respective populations. I really would like to see an Arab country to have well prepared free elections without any external or geopolitical constraints or an environment where the elections where more an expression of a protest vote rather than an innate fascist tendency. I believe now that Arabs are paying a high price for their freedom and for that reason only they will make sure that no system should arise that will abolish the system that elected it in the first instance. With every drop of blood Democracy will become as sacred as Islam if not more.


      • Can we please move on and stop playing the victimization card? Yes…the US did awful awful things…but then again, who didn’t? Do you know that pogroms were going on in the “Arab world” at the time? Do you know that slavery was still a powerful institution?

        Let’s leave Americans dig up their own skeletons. They have all the tools to do it thoroughly. Let’s instead focus on our shortcomings instead of blaming everything on the US/Israel/Algeria/Spain and whatnot…


    • Manus MacManus

      Well I really do not adhere to that premise and for many reasons. Although I agree with you that we should not be self obsessed with the role played by the West in maintaining the existence of these authoritarian regimes, but by the same token, we should not have a total historical amnesia and move on as you put without drawing lessons from our own experience. Especially that most of these powers are still playing a major role on the political dynamics of the region. To ignore these realities is simply absurd.

      I am not blaming anybody as I am merely reporting historical facts that had a major impact on my life and on the life of millions of people and still are shaping our existence. I wish there was more outspoken youths like you in the seventies and eighties when the full ruthlessness of these regimes was displayed for the whole world to see. Yes my dear I have had first hand experience on what these regimes are capable of and still live with the scares of that experience. I wish the West at the time lived up to their high moral standards and civilised values. Instead, they played a major role in dispensing of anyone who posed a treat to these regimes, including and particularly pro-democracy dissidents. I can forgive but I cannot forget. The memory is still too raw and painful right now.

      The US has today a historical opportunity to redeem itself and live up to its moral values legacy.

      I hope that the US will be on the right side of history this time. The Founding Fathers knew the Importance of Moral Values and created a nation state based on the rule of law, separation of church and state, protection of minorities, freedom….

      These were the values my generation aspired too many decades ago. Unfortunately, everybody turned the blind eye and nobody cared when massacres used to happen in broad daylight in university campuses and opposition forces to the regime was utterly pulvirised.

      I aspire to a modern secular liberal Democracy, not to an Islamic one or a nationalist one but most of all not secular totalitarianism.


    • I suppose the bullets that these dispots are using in Bahrain and Lybia at the moment are made in Papua New Guinea !!!


  2. I question whether you actually read this because at no point did I compare Iran to Tunisia. I simply stated a criticism of western media for covering Iran incessantly during their protests and failing to do the same for Tunisia. If you could point out for me one sentence that stated my love of Iran I would appreciate it because it must be in invisible print. I’ve come to understand that anything outside of your narrow box of understanding is open to your blanket criticism. If it is so sickening to you, no one is forcing you to read what I or anyone else writes.


    • It is your own bias that prevented you from seeing the extensive coverage of the situation in Tunisia in Western media.

      For many reasons, the Iranian protests enjoyed a more prominent presence in the media:

      * Iran is home to 80 million people (compared to 10 million Tunisians), and a very significant humanist diaspora exists nowadays in the Western world (as a direct consequence of the 1979 revolution).

      * Iran is a major oil and gas producer.

      * Iran is seeking to become a nuclear power.

      * Iran routinely murders homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, apostates in compliance with Allah’s commandments. People are forbidden from using certain substances or dressing in a certain way.

      * Iran has a very strong military power and a belligerent theologically-wrapped rhetoric.

      For all these reasons, the average media consumer in the Western world are more prone to show interest in the eventuality of regime change in Iran than in Tunisia. For-profit media responded accordingly to their target market. All non-commercial media outlets have profusely covered the unfolding of the Tunisian revolution (PBS, NPR, BBC, etc.).

      Your narrative is plagued with moral relativism.

      And don’t go thinking that this argument here is about open-mindedness. I don’t have a beef with spiritual people. I enjoy transcendent experiences myself. But your narrative is all too transparent, and is rooted in your defense of Islam (hence, Iran). It’s painfully obvious through your writing. It may win your high praises in certain circles, but it shall not go unscrutinized on a public forum outside of the Mullahs’ (or, more precisely, the Commander of the Faithfuls’) jurisdiction. Not while we Moroccans are still suffering from Arab/Muslim supremacy anyway! If that were not the case, I’ll disregard you and your writing as I disregard Scientologist loons.

      And if my comments are too sickening for you to read, no one is forcing you to read them either.


    • michelle hellgeth

      Oh Jullian, I compliment your response. Narrow is the absolute perfect adjective to describe this person. I must
      tell you, I’m in agreement with most of your opinions.


  3. Where did I or have I ever defended Iran? This is not worth arguing about because it’s clear to me that you’ve made assumptions about me that are far from the truth. For the record; what I do believe is that a) EVERYONE has the right to make their own choice about governance. b) The US and western media is hypocritical stating that they believe in this right to self-governance but then not supporting or recognizing the struggles of those groups they don’t agree with. c)I don’t believe religion should play a role in governance – it is a private matter and should not be enshrined in any political context.


    • It’s clear to me that you’re full of it! An objective person wouldn’t bring up Iran in this context as an example of some perceived double standard in the Western media.

      You’re just out to bash those pushing for universal humanist values and it shows.


  4. Seriously? Wow I’m really sorry that you feel that way.


  5. This is my first visit to this blog anf I was very surprized to find your article cantaining almost exactly the same views as my own (which I published on my Dutch blog). Another surprize is that we’re both Morrocan!


  6. By the way, don’t pay attention to people like Samira. I know their kind all too well. Never prepared to engage into serious discussion, using all kinds of demagogy, false analogies and other retoric. They will suck every joule of energy out of your body and soul. What a waste!


  7. Yeah I would absolutely agree with you Marocmama concerning the bias and relativism of the american government ,the media and some of the American people themselves. These are the people who defend human rights,equality values and the right of people to choose their own governors.Yet,as you have said they would hurry and pick out the slightest rumours about what might be happening in Iran ,darfur or north korea and they have paid no attention at all to the struggle of the Tunisians against a tyrrant.Well Samira , if you don’t like Mama to mention Iran for the reasons you have alluded to above,which objectivity is this then?It’s exactly the same reasons why the Americans give too much attention to Iran and forget about the rest of the world.Ok??Why haven’t they said any thing about the events that happened in Algeria? knowing that they happened there also at the same time with Tunisia?If you say that the Iranian diaspora are bigger than the Tunisian,how about the Algerians in America?If you say that there are 70 million people in Iran,it’s almost the same number in Algeria.If you say that Iran is oppressing people,tell me who is free to say even the slightest words against Boutfliqa or another army General??If you say that the Iranians are a mjor oil and gas producer,how about Algeria??HUH??If you say that Iran is against Israel and the American dominance and hegemony,how about the latest Wikileaks documents concerning the relations between Algeria and Israel??If you say that Iran is hosting and funding terrorists,how bout Algeria which ,as all the American media say, supports the terrorist Polisario front which as the Americans themselves say supports and has close ties with Alqaida in the Islamic Maghreb???

    All this supports only the fact that Americans are biased ;whether you accept or you refuse it?
    ah think about Palestine??


    • I don’t understand what you are ranting about Brahim. Iran is a fucking theocracy. The Algerian generals seized power to prevent Algeria from going down the theocratic road. It’s not at all comparable.

      For obvious reasons*, Tunisia has not been a focus for US foreign policy. But let’s not forget that Bush chastised Ben Ali on more than one occasion, and that the current White House administration applauded the courage of the people involved in this revolution. Without that endorsement, European countries would still be calling for more police repression.

      * Ben Ali enforced secularism


      • And FYI, smarty pants, Iran just hanged two men whose only crime was to take pictures of the protests.


  8. @Samira

    Well I really do not adhere to that premise and for many reasons. Although I agree with you that we should not be self obsessed with the role played by the West in maintaining the existence of these authoritarian regimes, but by the same token, we should not have a total historical amnesia and move on as you put without drawing lessons from our own experience. Especially that most of these powers are still playing a major role on the political dynamics of the region. To ignore these realities is simply absurd.

    I am not blaming anybody as I am merely reporting historical facts that had a major impact on my life and on the life of millions of people and still are shaping our existence. I wish there was more outspoken youths like you in the seventies and eighties when the full ruthlessness of these regimes was displayed for the whole world to see. Yes my dear I have had first hand experience on what these regimes are capable of and still live with the scares of that experience. I wish the West at the time lived up to their high moral standards and civilised values. Instead, they played a major role in dispensing of anyone who posed a treat to these regimes, including and particularly pro-democracy dissidents. I can forgive but I cannot forget. The memory is still too raw and painful right now.

    The US has a historical opportunity to redeem itself and live up to its moral values legacy.

    I hope that the US will be on the right side of history this time. The Founding Fathers knew the Importance of Moral Values and created a nation state based on the rule of law, separation of church and state, protection of minorities, freedom….

    These were the values my generation aspired too many decades ago. Unfortunately, everybody turned the blind eye and nobody cared when massacres used to happen in broad daylight in university campuses and opposition to the regime was quashed.

    I aspire to a secular liberal Democracy, not to an Islamic one or a nationalist one but most of all not secular totalitarianism.


  9. Just finished wnhctiag it. A few comments: Flynt wins the best line award, commenting on the usual response to reasoned argument about Iran: I didn’t know laughter was an argument. Flynt wasn’t even in the running, however, for the Most Ironic Comment, which Mr. Ledeen made in response to the moderator’s question whether US support for the Greens should be overt or covert : I’ve always been in favor of overt.’ I think covert’ is not an American policy. For any of you who thought Mr. Ledeen might have had a hand in some covert hanky-panky in the past take that! The award for saying I think the most times also goes to Mr. Ledeen, hands-down. I’d guess he said it 100 times, apparently assuming that many in the audience cared a great deal about that. Several times a self-deprecating preface was included, as in I don’t know, but I think Sometimes, his certainty was based on other senses as well: I can smell it, he assured us, referring to the rotten core of the Iranian regime, and I can feel it, referring to its inevitable demise. He did not mention tasting it, but who could doubt that: it was clearly an all-five-senses sort of certainty he was conveying to his audience.Flynt fell way short here also, far too intent on laying out facts and sound arguments. We learned a few things from Mr. Ledeen: (1) The color green has been outlawed in Iran. He praised himself for wearing green to the debate, and expressed considerable pride in living in a country that still allows that (a pride I am sure we all feel, and I can assure that I, for one, am not waiting for St. Patrick’s Day to wear my bright green socks). Flynt allowed as how he hadn’t noticed the anti-green police during his recent trip to Iran, and mentioned that green still seems to be one of the colors in the Iranian flag. (Ledeen’s brow furrowed a bit at that: I think he’s going to think of a way to deal with that anomaly next time he mentions this anti-green law.)(2) Women in Iran are worth legally, half a man. Ledeen didn’t think that was fair implying, of course, that Flynt did, but Flynt assured him it wasn’t so.(3) Mr. Ledeen reminded the audience that he had been right to predict the downfall of the Soviet regime 20 years ago (in fact, he mentioned that roughly one time for each year which has passed since then) which means, of course, that he must also be right when he predicts that the same thing will soon happen in Iran.(4) Mr. Ledeen said he’s heard from reliable sources (is there any other kind?) that not a single Green leader has even been contacted, much less helped, by any Western government. As an American taxpayer, I’d like to know: What in the heck is our government doing with that $400 million a year that Congress budgeted for the overthrow of the Iranian regime? Sounds like we’re not getting much bang for our buck.(5): Mr. Ledeen seems to be a nicer guy than I’d thought, but someone who ought not to be taken very seriously. He’s past his prime, pretty much out of the loop, and doesn’t have the raw intellectual power, nor a clear enough grasp of foreign policy at a strategic level, to be worth listening to. (6) Bottom line, with all due respect to Flynt, wnhctiag this was not worth the time spent. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know I even knew already that the color green had been outlawed in Iran (I think Rush Limbaugh taught me that!)


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