Stories from the Long Road to Freedom
They didn’t value democracy too highly in Ancient Greece.
In fact, Plato thought that it is the second worst way in which you can organize a country, just a little better than tyranny.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begs to differ.
In “Democracy” she explains why it’s, in fact, the only way to counter totalitarianism and authoritarianism.
And how history has proven that it’s also the best.
Who Should Read “Democracy”? And Why?
When a noteworthy politician writes a book detailing his experiences and beliefs, it’s certainly an event of which everybody should take note.
After all, our lives are organized the way they are mostly because of the decisions noteworthy politicians make.
A few days ago, we brought you the summary of Joe Biden’s heartbreaking memoir, “Promise Me Dad” and we told you that if you are interested in the inner workings of the Obama administration, you shouldn’t miss it.
Now, as we are about to focus our attention on Condoleezza Rice’s “Democracy,” it’s only natural that we advise those interested in Bush’s administration to make this a priority in their next-to-read booklists.
But, “Democracy” is only marginally a book about that, going a long step beyond.
Chronicling the political transitions around the globe from the 19th to the 21st century, much more than a topical book, this one’s an intimate apology of democracy by someone who still earnestly believes in it.
So, read it if you do to find encouragement.
Read it if you don’t to see what the people who don’t share your opinion have to say on the subject.
About Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American diplomat and political scientist, and the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School. She is also a professor of political science at Stanford University.
Between 2005 and 2009, Rice served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. She was the second African-American Secretary of State (after Colin Powell) and the first female African-American to hold that position (the second female overall after Madelaine Albright).
A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Condoleezza Rice has been awarded no less than eleven honorary doctorates.
“Democracy PDF Summary”
Very soon after being confirmed as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice pioneered a diplomacy policy which she titled “Transformational Diplomacy.”
The idea behind it?
Reinvigorating American foreign policy, by expanding democracies throughout the world, especially in the greater Middle East.
However, when Hamas won the popular majority in the Palestinian elections, and some of the democratic revolutions around the world resulted in totalitarian governments, Rice’s “Transformational Democracy” initiative was met with fierce criticism.
So, the question Rice was left to grapple with – posited by one of her students as well – was: “Was it worth it?”
In the “Epilogue” of “Democracy,” Condoleezza Rice gives a defying answer:
There is both a moral and practical case for democracy promotion. In the long arc of history, we know that democracies don’t fight each other. The ‘democratic peace’ is observable. No one today is sorry that the United States helped build a democratic Germany and Japan after World War II. Both had been aggressors against their neighbors and there was no guarantee that they would not be again. Neither country had sustained experience with democracy and it took time for institutions to take root. But we stood alongside them, and now they help to form the foundation for international peace and prosperity.
No one today doubts that the spread of democracy through most of Latin America, Africa, and Asia and the emergence of free countries in Eastern Europe have been good for the world. In 2016, Freedom House ranked 145 out of 195 countries as “free” or “partly free.” That is a reason for celebration even if there have been setbacks and reversals along the way.
These two paragraphs basically sum up Condoleezza Rice’s “heartfelt and at times very moving” book: there may be setbacks in the fight for worldwide democracy, but, it’s a fight we just can’t afford to back away from.
Throughout the book, Rice details both her victories and her defeats in this “hard — really, really hard” battle.
For example, speaking about the Palestinian 2006 elections, she does not hide that it was her and her team that pushed the Israelis to allow them and the Palestinians to conduct them.
She believed – as did the whole administration – that Hamas, the fundamentalist Sunni-Islamist organization, would lose the democratic elections.
That didn’t happen, and the victory of Hamas resulted in war and complications of an unforeseen kind.
However, that’s democracy for you: you can’t choose what the people will choose.
You can only choose whether you’re going to give them the right to make the choice.
Fully aware that they may choose wrongly.
Mistakes were made in Iraq as well, some of them even worse than the notorious Abu Ghraib prisoner torture and abuse conducted by American soldiers.
Rice mentions Egypt and Turkey as well, in addition to bemoaning the fact that Libyans failed to use the fall of Qaddafi to build a democratically elected government.
Finally, some of the mistakes which were made in Ukraine – a region Rice is supposed to be an expert in – are almost inexcusable.
However, Rice lists all of these cases merely as hindrances, or, better yet, delays.
After all, she reminds us, democracy has emerged victorious in countries as different as Kenya and Ghana, as Tunisia and Colombia.
People tend to forget that this would have been something unimaginable just half a century ago. Some people still believe in “The Myth of Democratic Culture” – namely, that only some nations can become democratic, while others are naturally inclined to undemocratic regimes.
That’s obviously not true:
No nationality or ethnic group lacks the DNA to come to terms with this paradox. Over the years, many people have tried to invoke “cultural explanations” to assert that some societies lack what it takes to establish or sustain democracy. But this is a myth that has fallen to the reality of democracy’s universal appeal.
It was once thought that Latin Americans were more suited for caudillos than presidents; that Africans were just too tribal; that Confucian values conflicted with the tenets of self-rule. Years before that, Germans were thought too martial or subservient, and—of course—the descendants of slaves were too “childlike” to care about the right to vote.
Those racist views are refuted by stable democracies in places as diverse as Chile, Ghana, South Korea, and across Europe. And, of course, America has now had a black president, as well as two secretaries of state and two attorneys general.
So, as Rice says, the problem is not if all countries can become democratic.
The problem is how we can help them achieve this.
Key Lessons from “Democracy”
1. Democracy Is the Difference Between Freedom and Totalitarianism
2. Economic Freedom and Good Education Are the Foundations Upon Which Democracy Should Be Built
3. America First? Think Again, Trump!
Democracy Is the Difference Between Freedom and Totalitarianism
One of the photographs included in Rice’s book shows George H. W. Bush alongside Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement which trampled communism back in 1989.
Rice notes that in Gdansk Bush and Walesa were met by thousands of dockworkers chanting: “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” Afterward, she takes a not so subtle dig at communism by adding: “It must not have been what Karl Marx had in mind when he said, ‘Workers of the world, unite!'”
Her point: people value freedom above prosperity.
Economic Freedom and Good Education Are the Foundations Upon Which Democracy Should Be Built
Most of Europe and the Americas is nowadays governed by structures which have been democratically elected. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Africa and Asia where the ratio is reversed.
The reasons are not racial – but historical and structural.
In other words, there are some prerequisites for democracy, in that poor and poorly educated nations are incapable of holding onto it even if they finally establish it.
Consequently, by solving these problems in Africa and Asia, we’ll be paving a road to democracy.
Or as Rice says – borrowing the title from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography – a long road to freedom.
America First? Think Again, Trump!
The world is too interconnected to think that putting the interests of your country first is the right way to go.
The markets are global; the politics are international.
Consequently, putting world democracy first is synonymous with putting America first.
Putting America first, however, may be more than counter-productive.
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Democratic transitions do not succeed suddenly, and, conversely, they do not fail in one moment either. There are, in retrospect, important inflection points that might have taken a different turn. Click To Tweet
As James Madison put it… ‘The choice must always be made, if not one of the lesser evil, at least of the GREATER, not the PERFECT good… I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.’ Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Condoleezza Rice’s “Democracy” is a well written and well-researched book. It may be a bit too one-sided, but it’s also candid since Rice doesn’t shy away from admitting her mistakes.
Rice also doesn’t shy away from her former beliefs – and it’s nice to hear that, especially after so many setbacks.
By the end of this book, you may even start believing in democracy as well!
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.