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According to Kolar (2005), democracy means the government of the people. The term is commonly defined in America to include three aspects. It must be the government of the people, formed by the people themselves and to serve the people’s interest. This means that any democratic government must be that which is formed by the people who continue to exercise it with the aim of serving the interest of the citizens.
Ebert (2008) noted that any state that is considered to be democratic must have certain key principles. These include but are not limited only to fundamental freedom and fundamental rights for its people, regular elections and the rule of law, a clear separation of power between different arms of government, provision for parliament and its relationship with the government. Other principles include: the democratic pluralism, well established government and the opposition, respect for public opinion and the freedom of the media, decentralization of power and resources, democratic governance and finally political education.
According to the publication by Terrorism Research (2011), the term can be defined as the use of force against people or property done majorly to intimidate, coerce or ransom the target. According to the UN’s definition, “terrorism is the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence, fear or intimidation aimed at producing terror in its victims” (Forest 2007, p. 78). Normally, terrorists create fear through the use of violence and forceful acts which are primarily aimed at revealing the weakness of the attacked government to its citizens. They carry out such acts as threats, assassinations and kidnappings.
Forest (2007, p. 79) notes that with the advancement in technology, the threat from terrorism is currently on the increase. This threat can be executed by individuals, extremist groups and the hostile governments. Notably, terrorists can be either from within or outside the targeted country. Their actions majorly target the military and various government facilities, airports and even large cities (Forest 2007, p. 79).
PROs and CONs
Whether or not democracy can stop or even reduce terrorism, it remains a debate with scholars whose points of view divided greatly. McFaul (2010, p. 222) notes that during his time in office, President G. W. Bush called for a generational challenge to restore democracy in the Arab world. According to Bush, restoration of democracy in the Arab world would help spread the American values as well as making America more secure. His major argument of this school of thought is that with the growth of democracy in the Arab countries, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. He saw the Middle East democracy as mandatory if the U.S. is to achieve its security goals.
According to McFaul (2010, p. 223), the question the opponents have continued to ask is whether it is true that a more democratic country would less likely produce terrorism. He noted that the war against terrorism can never be won merely on the platform of democracy. He added that apart from democracy, there are many other factors that trigger terrorism activities. He also pointed out that even if America succeeded in restoring perfect democracy in the entire Arab world, the present campaign against the U.S. would still continue. The argument is that terrorists’ major concern is not to the restoration of democracy in the Arab World, but the improvement of their Islamic State vision.
This fact can be witnessed in the increasing support for terrorism related organizations and the number of terrorists which are increasingly been recruited. Gause (2005) notes that it is false to even preempt that democracy in the Arab world would eliminate or even reduce the work of terrorism. He noted that no research has ever linked democracy to the reduced terrorism. On the contrary, studies have indicated that a democratic Middle East would most likely results into Islamic governments which would never be more willing to cooperate with the U.S. than the present governments.
This raises the question of whether establishing democratic governments in the Arab world can make the US win their cooperation. According to Gause (2005), there are a number of other policy issues that must equally be addressed besides democracy for any sustained security to be possible. The issues that he identified include: the on going peace process between the Arab and the Israeli, the issue of the Persian Gulf’s security and the settlement of oil related issues.
Gause (2005) remarked the late Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama Bin Laden’s words. He notes that Osama had stood firm that he didn’t like democracy but rather supported the early Muslim caliphate. According to the Al-Qaida leader, any democracy must seek to obey a man as the legislator and not God. This is the value upon which the terrorists’ acts are based making terrorists act as equal partners with God in any of their ruling and legislating (Gause, 2005, p. 68).
According to the Voice of America (2005), the fight against terrorism can not be won just by encouraging democracy. However, Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University argued that lack of democracy is equally a trigger factor in the development and the spread of terrorism. The professor noted that though lack of democracy is certainly not the major cause of terrorism, any situation where children cannot get their rights to education and a brighter future provides a good breeding environment for hate and extremism.
Another professor of the University of Washington pointed out that the democratic societies have reduced terrorism acts because they offer more opportunities to their citizens. He agreed with professor Post that in societies where young people are denied access to useful education and successful career, most of them would easily be convinced into acting in despair and desperation (McFaul, 2010, p. 223).
Democratic Societies and Home Grown Terrorism
According to the Voice of America (2011), the democratic societies are equally not immune to home-grown terrorism. It sites the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 as a contrast to the assumption that the democratic societies are less likely to produce a terrorist. According to the publication, this case gives a clear indication that even those who have lived in what is perceived as a democratic society can still justify their terrorism actions.
Democracy and Al-Qaida
According to Professor Gause (2005), today’s terrorism is even made more complicated by its global nature. It may not be possible to fight terrorism solely through democracy to him. He says that terrorism is no longer a regional or a national problem but a global concern. He remained categorical that the solution is not in opening up of specific parts of the world to democracy. He explained that contrary to the expectation, the number of Al-Qaida being recruited each day has been on the increase even in the Democratic Middle East. According to him, unlike big illegal organizations, the Al-Qaida operations require just a small number of people. Thus their actions may not be easily reduced by a mere democracy.
Day (2005) noted that democracy can never be a cure for terrorism. He explained that several surveys have indicated that democracy instead, fosters the promulgation of terrorism. This is also noted by Gause who concluded in his article that there has never been any empirical evidence proving the existence of any strong link between democracy and terrorism (Day, 2005).
Democracy as a Support to Terrorism in Itself
According to Schmid (2010), it is the compromising politics of democracies that gives advantages to the terrorism. He explains that the virtues supported by democracy yield a friendly environment to tourism related activities. According to him, the failure of democracy in fighting terrorism is found both in its general strengths and weaknesses. Democracy seeks for a non-violent change through election, allowing to open criticism by the media and finally, by seeking to protect the weak against the strong. These strengths when analyzed critically are linked to the increased terrorism.
The weaknesses of democracy that provide a boost to the terrorism activities may include: freedom of movement and association, an easy and ready access to targets as well as a legal system that is in support of the production of solid proofs. Schmid (2010) explains that what even worsens the situation further is the support of capitalism/market system by democracy. Such system increases inequality and also enables the terrorists to acquire weapons easily from the market while at the same time offering terrorists the access to media on a commercial basis.
I agree with Professor Joseph that even though democracy is a contributing factor to the reduction of terrorism, it should be done in conjunction with other policies. After experiencing failure in Iraq because of the use of military in trying to force democracy, it is clear that a more acceptable means of negotiating democracy in the Arab world is necessary. America must take democracy as a long term project and initiate programs that seek to provide education as well also socializing the citizens of these nations in the correct norms and values. It must be willing to spend more time and resources to realize democracy and possibly to reduce terrorism in the Arab world. These are the approaches that were successfully used in both Japan and Germany where democratization was possible.