January 29th, 2013
01:51 PM ET

What we're reading

By Fareed Zakaria

The unrest the past few days in Egypt “felt darker, more anarchic, than the uprising of 2011,” The Economist notes.

“The peaceful protests that began on Friday in Cairo to mark the two-year anniversary of the revolution by Sunday had been overtaken by the armed street battles in Port Said. In the coastal city at the northern mouth of the Suez Canal, 33 civilians and two police officers were killed after relatives tried to storm a prison housing 22 local football fans sentenced to death on Saturday over a bloody stadium stampede last year.”

Such turmoil is frequently taken as “evidence of the inherent dysfunctionality of democracy itself, or of the immaturity or irrationality of a particular population, rather than as a sign of the previous dictatorship’s pathologies,” writes Columbia University Prof. Sheri Berman in Foreign Affairs.

In a nice history lesson that gives hope – in the long run – Berman says:

“Most countries that are stable liberal democracies today had a very difficult time getting there. Even the cases most often held up as exemplars of early or easy democratization, such as England and the United States, encountered far more problems than are remembered, with full-scale civil wars along the way. Just as those troubles did not mean democracy was wrong or impossible for North America or western Europe, so the troubles of today’s fledgling Arab democracies do not mean it is wrong or impossible for the Middle East.”

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    There is no room for Jeffersonian democracy in a country, where religion and orthodoxy prevails. It works well in a secular country with a strong civil society.

    January 30, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply

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