Sowell Reviews Agresto
One of the themes of this blog is that cultural change is a painstakingly slow process. As my masthead notes liberty – individual rights – was the result of a tradition going back millennia. This is why I questioned nations-building. In an early post, back in 2005, I noted that “the generosity of the American people is praiseworthy and the mission is honorable” but in nations-building “we are attempting a bold and radical change – one which is a long shot.” I argued that establishing an electoral process won’t change the culture. The problem is much deeper.
Last year I reviewed an article by John Agresto who learned the above lesson the hard way. Thomas Sowell reviews Agresto’s book, “Mugged by Reality,” on the same topic as the earlier article. Sowell distinguishes a proper criticism of “the mistakes of honorable people” with the vicious attacks from the left. Although this excessively defines ‘honorable’ in terms of a focus on ‘the other’, his point concerning the absurd criticism from the left is justified.
Here is the heart of the book review:
"However, as Agresto points out in Mugged by Reality, democracy has prerequisites — and those prerequisites are not universal, especially not in
. … President Bush has rejected the idea that some peoples and cultures are not ready for democracy. He points to the large Iraqi turnout at the elections, despite the threats of terrorists. Everyone wants more freedom, he and his supporters say. Iraq
Wanting freedom, however, is not the same as wanting others to have the same freedom you have. Such tolerance is not the norm in
. Nor was it the norm in Western civilization until after Protestants and Catholics fought each other for centuries before finally realizing that neither could exterminate the other. Sunnis and Shi’ites have yet to reach a similar accommodation in Iraq . … Iraq
What recent progress has been made in
has apparently been made by mobilizing traditional local and regional Iraqi leaders and coalitions, not by relying on the democratically elected central government. There may be a lesson there." Iraq
It’s a start. Sowell has written on the importance of culture in the past. It’s surprising that it has taken him this long to address the topic with reference to