The Case for Democracy
The Case for Democracy
Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer
The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror
by Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer
In this work Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer present a series of arguments
as to how and why democracy makes the world safer.
Sharansky sets out by dividing the world between "free" and "fear" societies. Then he employs a simple test to
discern a free society from a society based on fear: Can one enter a public square
and express any opinion without fear of being arrested? If not, one is in a society
that runs on fear.
Then, he describes the mechanics of fear societies,
focusing on three basic groups: true believers,
doublethinkers, and dissidents. Sharansky uses personal
anecdotes to demonstrate what these categories mean, and to
describe, for readers who have lived only in free societies,
the experience of living in a fear society. He admits that he
was, like most of the Soviet population, a doublethinker,
constantly performing a balancing act
between his true feelings and his public feelings. As a child,
he privately celebrated Stalin's death, and then joined the
public expressions of mourning and praise.
Only those adept at reading these mechanics, Sharansky
warns, can tell the true believers from the doublethinkers.
Most outsiders mistakenly accept the popularity of despotic
states because these regimes spend great effort trying to
conceal the difference between their true believers and
doublethinkers. The failure to see the difference between the
two, however, is not just a question of political acumen, it
is a question of moral clarity.
Sharansky then analyzes the inherent instability of fear
societies. Their leaders lack popular support, and, over time,
they lose true believers. So the regime must work harder to
hold onto power. To prop itself up, the regime needs an
external enemy, who serves a dual, if not contradictory,
purpose. Because the fear society stifles creative thought, it
lacks scientific and technological progress, and so must mimic
those of its rival. It also uses the rival as the scapegoat
for its own political malaise. By contrast, governments of
free societies are accountable to the will of the people and
the laws of their country. A democratic leader who pursues a
reckless agenda cannot do so indefinitely.
Sharansky explains how freedom can guide free societies in
their dealings with fear societies. He does so by raising
three questions: Is freedom from tyranny universally desired?
Is pursuing that goal universally desirable? And can it be
done, even if imposing it on a nation is required?
Discussing the United States's role in the world, he
responds to criticisms of so-called realists from both the
left and right who believe that America's foreign policy
should be guided only by interests--and not by ideals. He
rejects the notion that certain cultures are incompatible with
democracy. Exporting freedom to these societies, he argues, is
moral since it helps oppressed people obtain basic liberties.
But it is also pragmatic, because democratic societies tend to
resolve their differences peacefully.
Sharansky advocates the use of well-calculated
international pressure against tyrannies. In the Middle East,
the dictatorships may be vehemently anti-American, but the
people tend to favor the West. The West can influence
undemocratic and anti-American regimes such as Iran's, Saudi
Arabia's, and Syria's by insisting that their people enjoy
some basic freedoms.
According to Sharansky:-
"We must understand the difference between fear societies and free societies, between
dictators and democrats. We must understand the link between democracy and peace and between human
rights and security. Above all, we must bring back moral clarity so that we may draw on the power of
free individuals, free nations, and the free world for the enormous challenges ahead.
Born in the USSR in 1948 Sharansky spent many years in opposition to the Soviet system which
brought him to be imprisoned in a Gulag and, as he puts it himself, it was only after he was finally
released by his Soviet jailers and was allowed to emigrate to Israel, he came to:-
understand a critical difference between the world of fear and the world of freedom. In the former, the primary challenge is finding the inner strength to confront evil. In the latter, the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil.