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The Case For Democracy Hardcover – November 9, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on his autobiography—from Soviet refusenik to Israeli cabinet minister – Sharansky distinguishes between "fear" and "free" societies. He spends a significant amount of time taking on conservative "realists" who prize stability in international relations, as well as liberals who he says fail to distinguish between flawed democracies that struggle to implement human rights and authoritarian or totalitarian states that flout human rights as a matter of course. Sharansky criticizes those who argue that democracy is culturally contingent and therefore unsuited for Muslim societies. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he mentions documented Israeli human rights abuses, but places the bulk of the blame for the conflict on the dictatorial systems prevalent in Arab societies. He also weighs in on the vexing subject of how to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from the "new anti-Semitism." Such criticism must pass the "3D" test of "[no] demonization, double standards, or delegitimation." Sharansky does not grapple deeply with the current situation in Iraq, but his opinions throughout, honed through years in a Soviet prison and in the corridors of power, feel earned.
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"For opinion makers, I would put [this] on your recommended reading list...[Sharansky] is an heroic figure. It's a great book." -- President George W. Bush
"Provocative and important... Sharansky's argument reinforces his belief that only democratic societies can create real peace in the world." -- Philadelphia Inquirer, February 16, 2005
"This book has the merit of straightforwardness... [it's] written with vigor, argued with panache and imbued with the fierce conviction..." -- New York Times, February 12, 2005
"[A] fast-paced read." -- New York Post, December 5, 2004
"[This] book can be a blueprint for measurable, positive change... in the Palestinian Authority [and] Arab world as a whole." -- National Review, December 27, 2004
"the perfect gift for friends or family members..." -- New York Sun November 9, 2004
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Facebook, Google, are blocked. There are 2-million "Internet Police." God forbid the truth about other nations freedom get out.
My son, thankfully is moving home, away from a totalitarian government that is no better or worse than that of North Korea.
Sharansky does have the right concept--no question. His fault is his failure to address the plight of the Palestinian people.
Sharansky himself offers an interesting and personal perspective on the matters he writes about since he was a Soviet dissedent during the Cold War - a refusenik. Now, he is a Isreali politician. Basically, his thesis is that making a democracy anywhere makes all democracies safer everywhere.
Is he correct? Well, Sharansky offers his personal history as well as world history to support his thesis. No matter your opinion, a compelling case is made by the author regarding the strength of democracies. There is no doubt that this book is written from the international realist school. And frankly, this book would make a compelling starting point for discussions in a graduate seminar on political theory or international relations.
The author does not believe in observing normative international law - as he believes, for example, that the United States can bypass the United Nations, and not observe international law in its pursuit of spreading democracy.
Is he correct? Well, reader, I again believe in opining on the book itself. Unlike many a graduate course textbook you could read on the subject - Martin Lipset jumps to my mind - frankly anyone interested in politics and the international arena can benefit from this book. It is extremely well written, thought provoking, and while intellectually challenging, easy to read. You may fault the author on every page, or wear out your head nodding in agreement, however, it is still a good book.
In short, whether you agree or disagree with the author's central thesis, this book is so important to read. It is a magnifying glass into the intellectual battlefront of the current administration and its critics, and also a blueprint for this nation's beliefs about itself and the course being steered on foreign policy. A book well worth reading for the quality of argument, the ease of understanding, and the ability of the author to stir argument.
Sahransky makes the case for not "dealing with the Devils" and shows how we have made that mistake over and over.
Sharansky articulates his theories logically and clearly. The idea is that leaders in a democracy, being dependent upon the populace for their continued power, will tend to shy away from war since it is expensive to the population in terms of money and lives and is consequently unpopular. On the other hand, dictators in fear-based societies need a common external enemy to take the focus off of their own treatment of their population and to justify the sacrifices they force upon their own people.
The practical application of his theory that Sharansky calls for is for the free world to trade its technology, wealth and favors to the rest of the world only in return for legitimate steps in those countries towards freedom and democracy. He does not advocate, as some have implied, that we fight a series of wars to force Democracy on the non-Democratic world.
Sharansky's views are incredibly relevant now with Hamas - historically a pro-terror organization - winning a truly democratic election in Palestine. Further, George Bush seems heavily influenced by Sharansky's arguments.
While Sharansky's views are controversial, particularly within Israel, his arguments are well-reasoned and should really get the mental wheels turning for an open-minded person. You certainly don't need to fully agree with or adopt Sharansky's ideas to get something from this book. Sharansky is a solid thinker and comes at this issue from a unique perspective. Reading this book will fill out anyone's perspective on an issue that is certain to be central to international relations for decades to come.