Democracy and Culture

by Carol Iannone

John Agresto has a brilliant article in the December Commentary challenging the wisdom of America’s effort to bring democracy to Muslim countries that do not possess the underlying cultural formation to make liberal self-government possible. In his response to the article, Abe Greenwald counters, as Bush and Rice used to do when similarly challenged, by mentioning America’s own historical shortcomings regarding blacks, Indians, and (allegedly) women, in order to make Muslim forays into self-government look more viable.

This is not helpful. Deploying this tactic without explanatory qualification tends to validate the left-wing excoriation of America taught in our schools and universities, as does making the false equivalence between the situation of blacks and Indians on the one hand and that of women on the other. Also, to make even a rough comparison between the early American republic and present-day Iraq and Afghanistan only proves Agresto’s point, that neoconservatives need a livelier understanding of the pre-political cultural conditions necessary for democratic self-government.