Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Democracy Under Attack

Democracies are under attack around the world. It is not surprising that democracy and its promises of fundamental civil liberties, freedom, equality and its large amount of success in some of the world’s greatest powers, appeals to many in the international system. However, there are several states that are simply not able to secure these facets of a true democracy. Several scholatrue democracy (dependent on a more extensive definition than I have provided), but that is a conversation for another day. Democracy does not come easy and it is in times of hardship, when the values of a democracy are challenged, that states have the hardest times acting in true democratic fashion. More specifically, for already democratic states, it is times in which national security is threatened that so too is democracy. Take the recent refugee crisis that stems from the long-term, bloody civil war in Syria. According to Sewall Chan, the international news editor for the New York Times, in his recent article, this “wave of migrants and refugees” is the “largest since World War II.”[1] It is the largest and the most threatening to Western European democracies. As the refugees flee to find safer and more promising lives in Western European countries, they bring with them the reminder of the war on terror, which plagues their home. In turn, fear plagues the countries to which these war refugees have fled.
rs might argue that even the U.S. does not have a

With this fear comes numerous communities with closed doors and intolerance for others’ misfortunes. In other words, what results is the opposite of the fundamental principles that a democracy is founded upon. Although he was a leading figure in the origins of American strategic thought, flawed democracies throughout the international system can learn a lesson from George Washington in his 1796 farewell address. Washington advises his country that the greatness of the democracy in which they live will be challenged and attacked. Because of this, the people must fight in order to uphold the values of a true democracy, such as freedom, equality and acceptance. He writes, “The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth…”[2] When applied to a situation such as the refugee crisis challenging many European democracies, Washington’s advice is of much importance. We can deduct from the farewell address that democracies are to be fought for and that is what the democracies being challenged by the refugee crisis must do. Instead of closing doors, democracies have an inherent responsibility to, in this specific situation, harbor those fleeing cruel circumstances. By doing so, Western democratic principles beat out those more evil ones from which the refugees are fleeing. In the same New York Times article, Chan cites Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s special representative for human rights and a former foreign minister of Greece, as saying, “Under no circumstances do you shut the door to someone whose only crime is that they were born in a war-torn or impoverished country or region.”[3] Mr. Lambrinidis is correct, but who is going to be the first to step up and fight for democracy when our world needs it the most?

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