Saturday, December 24, 2005

Can democracy be imposed by force? permanent link   0 comments

After an online-chat and a recent phone call with my mother in Germany, I started to recall stories my family told me when I was in my teens. I will give it a try and see if I can describe the post-war situation in Germany with my own ears and experience.
I know I may over-simplify a few things and facts and I, in no way intend to downplay the horrific actions by Nazi-Germany, but we're talking post-war now....
First of all, even though Germany was the aggressor, most people were tired of war (they still are) and its ramifications after 6 years. Germany wasn't hit by smart bombs, it was almost completely destroyed by carpet-bombing. Millions died and as far as I know, almost EVERY family lost loved ones. Warfare was different in those days. It's also a fact that not every German was a Nazi or Nazi-follower. My mother, she was 15 at the time, told me many times how happy and relieved most people were when the American tanks drove through our little village, waving white handkerchiefs, crying for joy.
So what were the alternatives for a new government? Democracy or bolshevism/communism? The monarchy was already out of favor a couple of decades earlier, even though there were a few who wanted the Kaiser back. It was time for a new beginning and many hated the Russians, certainly more than the Americans. Yes, democracy was imposed in future West-Germany, but the great majority of people wanted it anyway. In times of uncertainty, thousands of people moved from the East to the West in the late 1940's to escape the Russian zone.
The Americans went from town to town and asked people for possible mayor candidates, who were known to be anti-nazi. They interviewed them, checked their history, and put them on the election list. That's how my grandfather became the first mayor, judge, and registrar of the little farm village I grew up in.
No one was opposed to the form of government was imposed on them, and those who did either went to East Germany or ended up in South America, but that's another story. And then the cold war started.......

I guess, the point I am trying to make is that Germans knew that every previous form of government had failed them and they longed for democracy. Also, in retrospect, having a democracy in a religious landscape of half catholic, half protestant is far more applicable as in the muslim world where religious leaders have far more influence on politics as anywhere else. Western Europe was ready for democracy.

The people of Iraq know that they will be some sort of island in the Middle East, surrounded by non-democratic countries who share the same religous beliefs, if democracy really succeeds and flourishes. My hope is it will and other countries will follow, but I am sceptical.


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