Netanyahu's Adviser on Democracy vs. Stability

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Chuck Todd asked me yesterday, off-air, whether I thought that Israelis -- the Israelis currently in power in Jerusalem -- would one day regret their support for Hosni Mubarak. He noted an irony here: The Middle East's only democracy (well, Iraq is a democracy, too, at this point) offering no support for advocates of democratic change in a country right next door. (Read Elliott Abrams on why this might be so). Chuck's is a very good question. I can't answer what Bibi and his cabinet might think one day about their support for Mubarak, but I do know that one of Bibi's closest advisers, Ron Dermer, co-wrote a book with Natan Sharansky -- a book made famous when George W. Bush offered an enthusiastic endorsement -- in which they argued that peace will only come to the Middle East when its countries are democracies. This is what Sharansky and Dermer wrote about the people they call "freedom's skeptics" (the book is written in the first-person voice of Sharansky):

"(T)he arguments peddled by the skeptics sound all too familiar.

They insist that there are certain cultures and civilizations that are not compatible with democracy and certain peoples who do not desire it. They argue that the Arabs need and want iron-fisted rulers, that they have never had democracy and never will, and that their "values are not our values."

Once again, it is asserted that democracy in certain parts of the world is not in the best interests of the "West." While it will be readily admitted that the current regimes in the Middle East suppress freedom, those regimes are believed to also suppress a far worse alternative: the radicals and fundamentalists who might win democratic elections. The message is clear: It is better to deal with a Middle Eastern dictatorship that is our friend than a democratic regime that is our enemy.

It is Goldblog's position that governments cannot repress their way to stability forever. This, of course, is why the Iranian regime will eventually fall. It is obviously in America's long-term interest, and Israel's long-term interest, to support democracy over stability. The short-term price could be heavy, but there's really no avoiding it.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/netanyahus-adviser-on-democracy-vs-stability/70739/