The Arab Spring and Democracy
Is democracy a superior form of rule?
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
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The beginning of the Arab Spring, in December 2010, was a development warmly welcomed by western media and politicians. It was hoped that it would bring about the establishment of “liberal” democracy in the Arab World.
The naivety, with which these hopes were embraced, by experienced political pundits and world leaders alike, was breathtaking. One phrase alone fits this incredible lapse in common sense – wishful thinking!
Hello this is Nick Barnes with Bible in the News.
However you measure it, the uprising in the Arab World has been an unmitigated disaster. The death toll is now put at about 125,000. Poverty has soared. The Middle East has become more unstable and war more likely. Advanced weapons have found their way into the arsenals of disparate terrorist groups and leaders who were on reasonably good terms with the west, have been replaced by less friendly regimes. The influence of the US, UK and Europe, in the Arab world, has diminished sharply, whilst the main beneficiaries have been Russia and China.
Yet the very western nations, who have lost so much in this revolution, are the ones who encouraged and supported it. It was they who provided military support to Colonel Qaddafi’s enemies and who used their influence to help force Hosni Mubarak to resign. Even now they would still be willing to support the opposition in Syria, if it was not for the determined resistance of Russia.
Some might think that this, support for democratic principles, shows an exemplary willingness to stand up for ideals, whatever the cost. The truth however is less to do with self-sacrifice and more to do with gross stupidity.
The reality is that the political classes are so firmly wedded to democracy as the panacea, that they are unable to face reality. They hold to a dogma, which appears rational on the surface, but is in fact madness, which, in the words of Rev 16v14, goes…
…forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
And the old saying…
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still” …remains as true as ever. Most people believe what they want to believe, whatever the facts of the case may be.
And while democracy might seem a good idea, it simply enables the majority to have their way; for good or for evil. It is often forgotten, for example, that Hitler was democratically elected, and in the following year, his referendum approving a new constitution, which combined the positions of chancellor and president, and which allowed him consolidate absolute power, was supported by 88.1% of respondents, on a 95.7% turnout. Clearly democracy is not a panacea, nor does it produce righteousness.
In Daniel 2, written more than 2500 years ago, God gave Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon a dream, which set out a summary of world history in advance. The dream was of an image, in human form, with golden head, silver breast and arms, brazen belly and thighs and iron legs – which represent the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece & Rome, respectively.
The value, of the metals, showed the authority of the ruler in each kingdom. The first metal was gold, and the king of Babylon was, in the words of Dan 2v37-38,
37 …king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, his word was law. There were no checks and balances. He did what he pleased and his will was obeyed.
However, the next verse tells us
39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
The power of the king of the Medo-Persian or silver kingdom was great, but restricted in one significant way; the king had to keep his own laws, as we find in Dan 6. Thus his rule was inferior to Nebuchadnezzar’s.
This decline, in authority, continued through the Greek empire (where ideas of democracy began) and the Roman empire, where the emperor’s authority depended on the whim of the army and where discontent amongst the rank and file, would inevitably lead to his violent death.
However the least valuable substance was reserved for the feet. This latter day period, is represented as iron mixed with clay, and the interpretation is given in v42 where we are told…
42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
…or more properly, brittle.
However there is a 2nd significance to these two substances, and in v43 we read…
43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
When we consider this verse, we see that “iron mixed with miry clay” is interpreted, for us, as “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men”. So we are being told that the clay represents “the seed of men”, and in the context of the vision, that there will come a time, when the kingdom is ruled, at least in part, by the power of the common man. This is a political system, where the value of the ruler’s authority was least. This is a political system, where every man has a very small share in the rule of the kingdom. This is a political system known commonly as democracy.
However, one further point should be noted. There are two kinds of clay in the Bible; that which is still workable, as in Jer 18, and that which has gone through the kiln, as in Jer 19. The clay here in Dan 2, is of that latter kind, and Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon lists this words meanings as “earthenware, sherds, potter’s ware”, and there is nothing that can be done with this latter day kingdom of men, except “dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" and break them so that it becomes “like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors”.
And yet the western world would like to see that clay system applied to the Arab world, even though in practice that would mean
1. An increase in religious intolerance – with its associated pillage, arson and murder – against minorities such as the Copts (who incidentally are probably descendants of the ancient Egyptians, rather than Arabs).
2. War with Israel, because the Arab Street (whether pro or anti Morsi) is far more anti-Semitic and far more radical, than leaders such Hosni Mubarak.
However, that has not happened yet, because despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s election victory in 2012, most power has remained with the army generals. And while the Copts have endured more violence, more murders and a few extra churches burned down, and Israel has suffered the destruction of its Embassy in Cairo and attacks on its gas pipeline and over its border, the Egyptian army has moderated government policy; and cooperation with Israel, and respect of the peace treaty, have continued.
And so we come the July 3rd ouster of president Morsi, which the western powers, having belatedly recognised how undesirable the Muslim Brotherhood is, refuse to acknowledge as a military coup d’état. They prefer instead to represent this, in some way, as a respectable part of the democratic process.
However the current violent suppression of Brotherhood supporters, has removed even this fig leaf, and left Britain and the US, in particular, humiliated and foolish, while Egypt rapidly returns to the status quo ante.
And scripturally, this seems appropriate, because when the Gog occupies “the mountains of Israel”, “the merchants of Tarshish and the young lions thereof” are impotent, and Egypt is not part of the his northern confederacy, but is instead a particular focus of the king of the north’s ire. And Dan 11v42 tells us that,
“He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.”
Egypt is to suffer this fate because, unlike “Persia, Ethiopia and Libya”, she is not allied to Russian ambitions to overthrow Israel. This seems to exclude the possibility of genuine democracy in Egypt, because the people’s desire is for Israel’s annihilation.
And so as we see the continuing violence on the streets of Egyptian cities, we find, yet again, that the Arab world is divided into two camps; those who are still determined to “wipe Israel off the map” and those who are willing to make a pragmatic accommodation with Israel.
We pray for the day when Israel’s enemies will be overcome by the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ; when “he will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” and will be established, in Jerusalem, “on the throne of his father David”.
See you again next week, God willing, for Bible in the news.
Printed: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
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