If you believe much of the talk in the Western media over the last few days, the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya is about to usher in genuine democracy and freedom for the people of Libya. After all, that is why the USA and NATO have supported the uprising against Gaddafi. The 42-year despotic reign is about to end and Western style democracy is about to flower. Call me a cynic but I fear the celebration might need to be tempered.
Did democracy and freedom flower in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when President Bush famously declared, "Mission accomplished"? No! In fact a brutal dictatorship has been replaced with something possibly even worse. Civil war, tribal intolerance, religious hatred, economic malaise, escalating poverty, the destruction of most basic infrastructure (roads, power, water, schools etc) and the breakdown of society has followed. The fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, now almost ten years ago, has also not resulted in flowering democracy. The Taliban fled to the hills but are still fighting and now leadership is in the hands of a plethora of warlords, some of whom we now deem friends, though the stench of corruption, injustice and threat is as bad as ever. Clearly the flood of refugees suggests that somehow removing one tribe with a big knife (or a series of guns and rocket launchers) often results in the next guy with a big knife (or artillery). Egypt had its spring revolution which again promised so much, but many of the minorities, especially Christians, are under the greatest threat to their existence in decades, with increasing fears that the power gap in Egypt will eventually be filled by the most organized and the most militant - the Muslim Brotherhood.
Of course then there are the other supposed people's uprisings against tyranny that the west is simply ignoring. Syria’s bloody suppression of its own people gets harsh words from the West, but no action, because maybe deep down the West knows that as bad as Assad is, the alternatives are either unknown or unimaginable. There are also a few other places where the West has done and said nothing, when protesters have been dispatched with the brutality and excess of Tiananmen Square in China.
When I was at university in the early 1980s, our visiting American tutor in International Politics was a former CIA operative. He later went on to become the US Ambassador to Israel under the Clinton administration and these days is often seen chatting to Tony Jones on Lateline. He had one overriding principle that he drummed into us about International Politics: that morality had no part to play. Yes, you read correctly. The one principle he hoped we learned from his course was that International Politics was about self-interest, national interest and not morality.
So don’t be surprised when we talk about freedom but then support the next thug who might also be on our side. Unfortunately human nature is very complex and dark. The bad guys are rarely as bad as we portray them and our motives and desires are rarely as noble as we insist.
A spiritual Kingdom and hope becomes even more real as the bad guys are rarely replaced by good guys and the good guys are a long way short of good.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17: 9