BBC, Roger Scruton:
For some time, the leading Western nations have acted upon the assumption that democracy is the solution to political conflict, and that the ultimate goal of foreign policy must be to encourage the emergence of democracy in countries which have not yet enjoyed its benefits. And they continue to adhere to this assumption, even when considering events in the Middle East today. We can easily sympathise with it. For democracies do not, in general, go to war with each other, and do not, in general experience, civil war within their borders. Where the people can choose their government, there is a safety valve that prevents conflicts from over-heating. Unpopular governments are rejected without violence.
The championship of democracy has therefore become a settled feature of Western foreign policy. In my view, the idea that there is a single, one-size-fits-all solution to social and political conflict around the world, and that democracy is the name of it, is based on a disregard of historical and cultural conditions, and a failure to see that democracy is only made possible by other and more deeply hidden institutions. And while we are willing to accept that democracy goes hand in hand with individual freedom and the protection of human rights, we often fail to realise that these three things are three things, not one, and that it is only under certain conditions that they coincide.
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