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Democracy’s Newest Heirs

Today on Tablet, Fouad Ajami on democracy in the Middle East

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At left, a poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo in September 1999, in front of a statue of Ramses II. At right, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi clash with anti-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo on Dec. 5, 2012.(Left: Mohammed Al-Sehitit/AFP/Getty Images; right: Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

Today on Tablet, Fouad Ajami writes on the new questions about the nature of democracy brought about by the events of the Arab Spring.

Regarding Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and soon enough Syria, the question can be put starkly: Better the peace of autocrats and pharaohs, or the risks and uncertainties of unstable democracies?

This question has consumed Israelis since 1948. The Jewish state’s dilemma with its neighbors had always been sui generis; Israelis have lived with the siege that has marked their political life since the emergence of their state. But the Arab Spring has given this dilemma new power and relevance. The irony of a democracy unsettled by the fall of dictators on its borders derives from that uniqueness of Israel’s place in its neighborhood. That happy proposition that democracies make better neighbors, that benign view of history bending toward “perpetual peace” when there is internal tranquility in the life of nations—the reading of history we identify with Immanuel Kant—is a poor guide to the unforgiving politics of the greater Middle East. This is a Hobbesian world of perpetual strife and menace.

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Democracy’s Newest Heirs

Today on Tablet, Fouad Ajami on democracy in the Middle East

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