LD – Mar/Apr ’16 – Promoting democracy in Middle East

Thoughts from judging this topic (including the final round at State):

The question of type of democracy isn’t coming up in rounds. It should. Everyone seems to be assuming that democracy only comes in one flavor, and that’s not the case.

There’s a lesson from the arguments for literacy that applies here. Early readings in college (a design-your-own major program; mine was free schools and open classrooms) emphasized why people liked being literate – it gave them more control over their environment, and the way they were able to interact with the world. Literacy allowed a level of interaction, and by extension control, that they couldn’t find while being illiterate. The desire of people to be able to influence the forces that act on their lives is pretty fundamental and universal – and is often why democracy is popular.

Compared to other forms of government, the ability to influence governmental decision-making via democracy translates to more control of one’s environment – even if that influence is imperfect.

As an Aff on this resolution, that’s essentially what you’re arguing, though few Affs will state it that directly. This is why the following article, originally posted in February, is important.

Hamid – The Future of Democracy in the Middle East – Islamist and Illiberal – The Atlantic

Even if the form of democracy is imperfect (illiberal), promoting it is still important because it moves people closer to being able to influence the forces that act on their lives. It may not even cover all people (see: America, prior to the Voting Rights Act), but covering some/most is better than no one being covered at all.

With most Affs going for what is, in Political Science terms, liberal democracy, the question of the conditions necessary for liberal democracy to succeed comes into play. For most Negs, it should be easy to argue that many areas in the Middle East don’t have the necessary conditions for liberal democracy to succeed (which is why pinning down the type of democracy the Aff is talking about is important).

Roger Cohen’s article discusses the reasons to favor, and the conditions necessary for, liberal democracy. The latter are of use to a Neg refuting an Aff liberal democracy case – they describe conditions that don’t exist in the Middle East; Cohen discusses the Arab Awakening failure specifically in these terms.

Roger Cohen – The Death of Liberalism

On the other hand, if you’re an Aff arguing for democracy even if it’s illiberal, and run into an attack arguing that necessary conditions aren’t present, then the Cohen article lets you argue that supporting illiberal democracy is all we can really expect, given that most places don’t qualify for the liberal democracy label any more (see: U.S. and certain E.U. countries).


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