The facets of freedom

Revolution rarely ends up in the name of those same ideals from which it arises. The American Revolution was in this sense a peculiar case. The nation initially put forth purely commercial goals, which turned into political objectives only after rejection by the British crown. Ideas germinated, and political figures emerged who led the fight for independence. And over the next three decades these founders implemented the principles they had laid down in the framework of independence, by supporting fledgling institutions and creating traditions.

However, the history of many other nations and epochs shows that there may be a formidable chasm between revolution and freedom, not to mention revolution and democratic prosperity.

Ongoing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa opens up a great number of questions, one of which is what should be the criteria for international interference.

The UN Charter formally provides this definition, though, in fact, the practices in dozens of contemporary states could easily be labeled as abuses of democracy and assaults on their citizens. Dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds were injured in Yemen, and lives were lost during the protests in Bahrain, but the “Dawn” (from the mission name “Odyssey Dawn” in Libya) is not breaking over these states…

Finally, besides the scale of atrocities, do the hydrocarbon reserves that a country possesses factor into the decision-making? This latter consideration can hardly be excluded, as the focus of international attention on Libya rose quite a bit along with the threat of disruption to the energy supply.

This brings up another question, namely what is the real effect of external interference? Doesn’t it exacerbate the situation with graver and longer-lasting consequences than an undoubtedly tough, but merely internal confrontation?

Military interference is the commencement of a path rather than its completion.

From its outset, international interference more often than not effects wholesale changes in government and legislative institutions, as well as the replacement of elites. In other words, this almost inevitably entails the complete overhaul of the state’s political system.

Such developments can take a long time. When the old aims are exhausted while the new ones are not yet defined, there appears a vacuum with no understanding of where to move. This may facilitate a fight among different clans seeking to prove that only they possess those ideals worthy to be spread throughout a nation. These claims may seem truly enticing for a weakened, run-down populace, while in reality they would lead not to freedom, democracy and prosperity, but in the opposite direction – though at that moment they would seem most attractive.

The whole region, hence, becomes a source of protracted turbulence and new conflicts.

This, in its turn, poses another question. Who would create the new statehood patterns and on what political and societal norms as well as economic relationships would they be based.

One may also wonder, given the presence of the foreign “responders,” how long and profoundly they intend to assist. And the point is that in the new century these answers have not been worked out, while the old models have been rejected.

The world is no longer willing to appreciate the right of “the first among equals,” the concept of a few strong states getting involved in world affairs when they see fit. On the contrary, now there is a shift of responsibility for the turbulence in underdeveloped democracies, at least in name, to those more powerful and prosperous. The very condition of prosperity often lays sufficient grounds for such blame.

That’s the dual nature of public opinion. At first, people demand that their leaders respond when a tyrant carries out “the genocide of his own people.” If a tyrant loses the throne, the public calls on the government to step aside and not hinder the local population in their desire to build a free state.

If, however, this freedom and prosperity do not materialize, the public begins to wonder whom to blame for the continuing unrest.

Though foreign affairs play a secondary role in domestic policy, when it comes to taxpayers’ money, they instantly become a domestic matter.
As a result, political leaders are effectively beholden to public opinion. This permanent linkage with voters is vital for democracy, but on the other hand, it commits the government to a complete dependence on the rapidly changing public opinion. This, in its turn, narrows the horizons and diminishes the role of long-term plans, relegating them to short political cycles.

A recent example is the lively discussion over the role of communications in emancipating the world. The role of on-line promulgation of the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity was vigorously debated until the surface-to-air missiles came into play. So shouldn’t we now expect some elaborations on how the “Twitter-revolution” has led to civil war, military intervention and chaos?

No one expects democracy and prosperity to emerge overnight in countries that were for decades oppressed by social humiliation and economic injustice.

However, one should remember that freedom must be feasible. It requires a lot of courage to demolish. But it takes even more to create, preserve and flourish.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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