The Factors that Hamper Democracy in the Middle East

The desire to have nations in the Middle East adopting democratic governance may still be a far cry owing to several reasons that make most of the nations in the region favorably disposed to adopt other kinds of administrative systems other than democracies (William 23). From nation to nation in the region, democratic rule has failed to take root in spite of attempts by Western governments to have it take root there including using force. In sharp contrast, other forms of government have appeared to be more likeable and to take root there more easily than democracy (William 113). Various reasons account for this; and it is about time these reasons are explored so the nations in question can be allowed to follow what seems more likeable and workable for them. This paper critically discusses some of the reasons that hinder democratic rule but favor other forms of governance like monarchies and dictatorships.DiscussionFrom their historical times, a number of nations in the Middle East have demonstrated an ability to embrace other forms of governance other than democracies. The following reasons have been responsible for this.Widespread Anti-Western IdeologiesWith the exception of Israel which is a Jewish state, the other nations in the Middle East are Arabic states which seem more inclined to define their own identity and nurture those forms of governance that can be described as endemic there as opposed to adopting and implementing government systems that they consider foreign (William 61). For these nations, the idea of democratic governance is as foreign to them as is any other religion that is not Islam. Therefore, trying to have them adopt democratic rule as has been the trend in the past only serves to strengthen their resolve to oppose Western ideologies typified by democracy and Capitalism. Arabs, by extension, are people who naturally have sense of pride in themselves and what they consider their own. They can go to lengths to preserve their faith in Islam and can do anything to oppose foreign rule, including supporting regimes that are clearly oppressive. Given this national pride that the people of Middle Eastern nations have, only a system of government that they choose or that is put in place by themselves and not imposed by Westerners will work (William 83).Many examples of this exist. Iraq is still far from the democratic state that the West sought to make it about seven years since the campaigns to end autocratic rule by Saddam Hussein began (Held 7). As it stands, it will be long before democracy takes root there. The human and financial costs, however, will be large if this Western endeavor is to be achieved. The same applies to Afghanistan where the current so-called democratically elected government is on the brink of collapse following renewed opposition from the ousted Taliban militia. What the people are trying to convey is that even though the past regimes might have been dictatorial and cruel, they were better off and could be tolerated compared to West-imposed rule in the name of democracy. In Iran, the 1970 Revolution that ousted the Shah and brought to power the Ayatollah could have looked as a change for the better in the eyes of some Western governments. However, just like the Shah-led regime was oppressive, the successive regimes have been oppressive as well (Fromm 312). Democratic space in the country is far from the Western dream of democracy. Instead, the people seem to view any acts of Western intervention as a move to advance capitalism further and to frown upon the sovereignty of the people.Arabs are also very tribal people who will readily pledge allegiance to their tribe first before the same can be extended to the nation (Held 33). This has made tribal leaders in these nations to wield a lot of power; and consequently have a lot of say in what happens at national level. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the national war might have been won by the Western Allied Forces but the current insurgency, which is an even more complicated form of war, cannot be won for as long as this tribal allegiance continues to exist. Tribal cohesion in these nations is the supporting foundation for national government (Fromm 17), but because the West only focused on the need to win the war on a national level, democracy will never be realized until these tribal groupings are first democratized – if that is possible (Held 49).Religion and GovernmentFor many nations in the Middle East, there is a close association of government and religion. As people who are so committed to their religion Islam, Arabs are less prepared to accept a form of government that is not closely associated with their religion. And yet this is exactly what democracy is all about. Democracy in the eyes of the Arabs is viewed as a Western system of government and one which is closely related to, if not perfectly laden with, Christianity (Held 332). As a result, democracy will continue to be opposed in the region just in the same manner as Christianity. For the people there, democracy and Christianity are mutually inclusive – none can take root without the other.The War on TerrorThe war on terror is perhaps the current most controversial issue pitting Middle Eastern nations against those from the West (Barber 401). From the point of view of the former, the idea of a global war on terror is actually a war on Islam and Muslims because the suspects so far have been mostly Arabs from all over the world (Barber 56). Although a fairly new development, this war on terror is bound to strengthen the Middle Eastern people’s opposition for the West. Therefore, for as long as the West will be interested in fighting global terrorism the endeavor to promote democracy in the Middle East will increasingly become difficult because to Arabs the war is targeting their people. In fact there is a fast spreading view that this war on terror is actually a move to force Muslims to denounce their faith by portraying Islam as a bloody religion (Barber 23).Oil WealthFinally, the oil wealth of the region that gives it a prominent position in the world economy makes the Middle East a rather difficult place to introduce democratic rule. Usually, a form of economic deprivation is necessary to have a people of a certain region accepting some changes (William 54). However, since most Arab nations are rich, they do not need anything in exchange for democracy. Being self-supporting and self-sustaining, they will continue to rule themselves as they desire and not as the West desires them to be ruled. For instance, Saudi Arabia, the leading oil exporter of all time, has had a long history of monarchies yet the country is a key Western ally. This is because the country’s economic might shields it from potential Western meddling (William 43).ConclusionGiven these reasons and many others, it will be difficult for democracy to take root in the Middle East. The best way forward would be to allow these nations to adopt their own forms of governance. This stems from the fact that they have ha a long history of self rule and any new forms of government deemed ideal by others might not appeal to them whatsoever.