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Hope (But Little Optimism) for Ukraine

With our focus on Iraq, Afghanistan and the allegedly nascent Palestinian state, it is easy to forget just how rare the rule of law is. The Bush Administration’s ardent hope that democracy can be cultivated in a reasonable time in regions with long histories of despotic rule seems to ignore the simple fact that there are very few functioning democracies in the world. The vast majority of these evolved clustered together in old Europe over centuries and out of a common Christian religious tradition and Greek/Roman political heritage.

Recent events in Ukraine bring into focus the contours of a society, indeed an entire region, only clinging to republican ideals. While the Parliament, Supreme Court and negotiators for both sides have functioned ably during Ukraine’s election crisis, it cannot be forgotten that the current headlines are the result of a clearly rigged election in a notoriously corrupt nation. Add to this the recent allegation that Yushchenko has been poisoned by his enemies and today’s revelation that the Ukraine government planned to stage a terror attack and lay the blame on the opposition. Meanwhile, an undemocratic Russia casts a disquieting shadow over the entire drama.

With sympathetic Western supervision, it is possible that Yushchenko will prevail in a new election. However, that is no guarantee that a true republic will have been born. Democratic fervor swept Eastern Europe almost a generation ago, but the results are mixed. In places with an authentic political culture, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, democracy flourished. In many places where the rule of law was more a fond wish than a concerted reclamation, such as Romania and Bulgaria, the result has been discouraging. Indeed, this fault line ran directly across the former Czechoslovakia, leading Slovaks to follow a nationalist ideologue away from the Czech lands and into replacement autocracy.

Ukraine’s proximity to Western ideals may help democracy to take root, but that region is littered with revolutions that, so far, have failed. It is sobering to think of Middle Eastern people grappling with republican government without any relevant history.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 6, 2004 2:29 PM.

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