Regarding Libya, I’ve noticed much of the radical left is somewhat hesitant to support the revolution taking place. I completely understand their viewpoint, it comes mostly from cynicism regarding what is in store for the people of Libya after Gadaffi is gone and what role NATO may play in the…

Can we please define a “western government” and “western democracy”?  Are we talking single member plurality, separation of powers as in the US?  Are we talking a linked powers parliament single member plurality as in the UK?  Are we talking about a mixed proportional system as in Germany?  Are we talking about a proportional system using districts such as in Sweden?  Are we talking about reintroducing a monarchy such as they have in Sweden, the UK, Spain, Norway or are we talking about maintaining a republic such as in Germany, France, Italy, the US?

Unicameral such as in Finland, Iceland, Denmark or bicameral such as in the Canada and Australia?  A constitution to promote direct democracy and referendums such as in Switzerland and the US on a state level, or where constitutions are largely ignored such as in the UK?  Do we mean a federal system such as in Belgium, devolved power such as in the UK or a purely unitarian state such as Italy?

I don’t really know what a western government, nor what a western democracy, looks like.

You’re overthinking it. The details are of course going to be decided by Libyan people alone when they have a constitutional referendum however a Western Democracy to me has a separation of church and state, a legislature elected by the people, whether it be unicameral or bicameral, constitutional or common law rights upheld by the judicial system, trials by jury and either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic. Those are the primary points to me though I could go into lengthly detail over what I would like Libya’s government to look like.

The point is though, that the western democratic system, whether it be based on British, French, German or American democracy will be better for the Libyan people than the reign of Gadaffi and we should be happy that at the very least the Libyan people have a true shot at democracy and gaining many of the liberties that people fought for in the Western world. And whether or not you supported NATO intervention, if you dislike Gadaffi’s regime, this is a time for cautious celebration

But it’s really not over-thinking the situation.  It’s really problematic to use the term “western” in such a homogenised fashion.  Almost as problematic as using American as synonymous with the United States (because there are 33 countries being lumped in that may beg to differ).  An example of this problematic lexical ambiguity is quite neatly highlighted when you say “either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic” where the two are not mutually exclusive and I suspect you mean a constitutional monarchy.

There’s also a sort of underlying current beneath all of this, terming it as a western democracy, implying that non-western states are potentially incapable of or incompatible with having the same structures in place.  For example, despite being in the middle of a constitutional crises, Morocco isn’t too dissimilar from the UK in how it organises it’s politics.  There’s no reason as to why many Latin American countries are excluded from your definition of “western democracy”, except for the fact that they’re considered a part of the global south rather than global north, and thus not “western”.  You use the phrase “western style capitalist state” but why do we view that as the inevitable direction that Libya will take (and what of western style socialist states such as Scandinavia?).

The point I’m making is to be aware of the terminology that you use and the way you use it.  Don’t slip into regurgitating media portrayals of the situation that lead to an anglocentric perspective of the way global politics works.  Don’t just regurgitate the ideas of the bourgeois hegemony that reek of condescension towards other nationalities.  Don’t relegate the Libyan civil war to be decided before even a couple of days have passed and Gaddafi hasn’t truly gone, don’t relegate the future of the Libyan state to be decided by the temporary involvement of NATO and the current perception of the TNC when the constitution isn’t even written let along settled upon.

Just as Egyptian revolutionaries continue to fight for true workers control, battling against the military junta.  In the words of Zhou Enlai, it’s “too soon to tell.”

Better Red than Dead: Libya: The Advantage of Western Democracy

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