Here we go again! The use of Apache gunships in Libya by a gung-ho David Cameron means that the UK is about to make a deeper mess in Libya than there is now. Just as Bush and Blair did in Iraq, and just as NATO is presently doing in Afghanistan, we’ll probably set Libya back 50 or 100 years into ethnic and religious tribalism.
It takes generations for cultures to change. Do Cameron and Obama and Sarkozy never read their history books — about the centuries it took for Europe to finally overcome the thought-control of the Christian Church and allow independent thinking? What’s more, cultures can only radically change from within. Two thousand years ago, the Romans ruled England for 400 years. But, within a generation of Roman administrators and army leaving the place, and except for some new strains of grain and a surfeit of Latin, the country almost completely reverted to type — as though the conquerors had never been here at all.
Even in countries such as Turkey and Israel, for which the West has high hopes, there are still doubts as to whether secular governance will finally prevail over Islam and a fast growing ultra-orthodox Judaism respectively. As for Tunisia and Egypt, and despite their recent mass protests, they are already going backwards — socially, religiously, economically — as their mullahs begin to re-establish their thought-control again and, as a byproduct, encourage their people to burn down churches and ransack ancient archeological sites. They may not revert to full-scale Iraqi or Bahraini wretchedness, where Sunnis are daily slaughtering Shias, but we’re still not going to see anything resembling Western democracy in Tunisia or Egypt. For the time being, we can only hope at best for the resumption of some form of elite dictatorship which looks a little more kindly on their people than their predecessors did.
Not that the present form of democracy in the West is anything to shout about. Worthy though it originally seemed, what one person-one vote has actually brought about in the last century are governments which have to repeatedly bribe one tranche or other of their electorates in order to maintain or gain power. The result is that almost all Western governments are now deeply and hopelessly in debt — though, of course, they still have more than sufficient assets held on our behalf which they could sell.
When the double-dip into deeper and longer-term recession occurs — any day now — then Western governments will have to decide between two alternatives. They’ll have to try and force repayment of their past profligacy and financial irresponsibility onto present tax-payers and their children for at least a generation to come, or they’ll have to sell some of their assets — which Greece is having to do already. Realistically, it’ll have to come to the latter sooner or later, unless governments want to risk committing suicide via revolutions or coups d’état.
Meanwhile, if the sensible solution is adopted, perhaps thoughtful people in the West can start talking more openly about better ways of selecting governments. Fortunately, we have a few signs that are beginning to point in the right direction — the rise of countervailing specialized interest groups, the growing use of focus groups, the growing power of special parliamentary committees, etc. During the same period, hopefully, the young revolutionary intellectuals of the Islamic countries will have learned what they must do first before they have a chance of economic development and longer-term stability in the modern world.