{4F805597-AC32-42F4-9EE2-BAD88CE3B8B2} The Case for Democracy
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The Case for Democracy

Natan Sharansky has lived an unusual life, spending nine years as a Soviet political prisoner and nine years as an Israeli politician. He offers the unique perspective of his experiences in order to make the case for democracy with his longtime friend and adviser Ron Dermer. In this brilliantly analytical yet personal book, nondemocratic societies are put under a microscope to reveal the mechanics of tyranny that sustain them. In exposing the inner workings of a “fear society,” the authors explain why democracy is not beyond any nation’s reach, why it is essential for our security and why there is much that can be done to promote it around the world.

Freedom, the authors claim, is rooted in the right to dissent, to walk into the town square and declare one’s views without fear of punishment or reprisal. The authors persuasively argue that societies that do not protect that right can never be reliable partners for peace and that the democracy that hates us is much safer than the dictatorship that loves us. The price for stability inside nondemocratic regimes, the authors explain, is terror outside of them. Indeed, the security of the free world depends on using all possible leverage-moral, political, and financial-to support democracy.

This book is about much more than theory. After explaining why the expansion of democracy is so critical to our future, the authors take us on a fascinating journey to see firsthand how an evil empire was destroyed and how the principles that led to that destruction were abandoned in the search for peace in the Middle East.

But the criticism contained in this book does not dampen its profound optimism. When there is every reason to doubt that freedom will prevail in the Middle East, this book declares unequivocally that the skeptics are wrong. The argument advanced here makes clear why lasting tyranny can be consigned to history’s dustbin if the free world stays true to its ideals. The question is not whether we have the power to change the world but whether we have the will. Summoning that will demands that we move beyond Right and Left and start thinking about right and wrong.

Book Reviews of The Case for Democracy

Publishers Weekly
“Drawing on his autobiography—from Soviet refusenik to Israeli cabinet minister – Sharansky distinguishes between ‘fear’ and ‘free’ societies. He spends a significant amount of time taking on conservative “realists” who prize stability in international relations, as well as liberals who he says fail to distinguish between flawed democracies that struggle to implement human rights and authoritarian or totalitarian states that flout human rights as a matter of course. Sharansky criticizes those who argue that democracy is culturally contingent and therefore unsuited for Muslim societies. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he mentions documented Israeli human rights abuses, but places the bulk of the blame for the conflict on the dictatorial systems prevalent in Arab societies. He also weighs in on the vexing subject of how to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from the ‘new anti-Semitism.’ Such criticism must pass the ‘3D’ test of ‘[no] demonization, double standards, or delegitimization.’ Sharansky does not grapple deeply with the current situation in Iraq, but his opinions throughout, honed through years in a Soviet prison and in the corridors of power, feel earned.”

Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University
“Natan Sharansky explains, clearly and cogently, the linkages between freedom and peace and between tyranny and terror. In the light of these two linkages and of his own personal experiences of both, he compares the successful ending of the Cold War with the stalled peace process in the Middle East; Helsinki with Oslo. This is a brave book by a brave man-an eloquent plea for moral clarity, and a fine example of it.”

Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“As KGB prisoner, human rights hero and Jewish leader, Natan Sharansky has lived at the very center of the history of our time. In this extraordinary book, he brings his passion, experience, and intellect to make the case, long overlooked and denigrated, for the power of freedom in international affairs. The Case For Democracy is both a rebuke and a challenge to all conventional thinking. It must be read.”

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Excerpts from The Case for Democracy

A lack of moral clarity is also the tragedy that has befallen efforts to advance peace and security in the world. Promoting peace and security is fundamentally connected to promoting freedom and democracy. -Preface, Page xix

The conviction that freedom is a universal desire is not the property of any political camp. … Yet those who hold it remain a precious few, outnumbered many times over by the skeptics who don’t.
-Pages 18-19

A simple way to determine whether the right to dissent in a particular society is being upheld is to apply the town square test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it’s a fear society.
-Pages 40-1

Now we can see why nondemocratic regimes imperil the security of the world. They stay in power by controlling their populations. This control invariably requires an increasing amount of repression. To justify this repression and maintain internal stability, external enemies must be manufactured.
-Page 88

Freedom’s skeptics must understand that the democracy that hates you is less dangerous than the dictator who loves you. Indeed, it is the absence of democracy that represents the real threat to peace.
-Page 95

The free world should not wait for dictatorial regimes to consent to reform.
-Page 278

Freedom for All
“We generally associate free societies with the preservation of basic liberties. Yet in no society are those liberties absolute. In America, for instance, freedom of speech and religion are considered sacrosanct. Nevertheless, one is not free to shout fire in a crowded theater, nor is bigamy permitted in the name of religious belief. While discussions on the appropriate boundaries of various freedoms may make for interesting policy debates within democratic societies, they fail to make a crucial distinction between societies that are based on freedom and those that are based on fear.

This distinction was identified by people who ought to know a thing or two about the subject: Soviet dissidents. In the Gulag, there were all kinds of political prisoners: Russian monarchists eager to restore the czarist rule that was wiped out during the Bolshevik revolution; Ukrainian nationalists struggling to win independence for their nation after 300 years of Russian dominance; Pentecostals who sought to practice their faith freely; Crimean Tatars who wanted to return from exile and reestablish autonomy from Moscow; Eurocommunists who wished to put a “human face” on Soviet communism; Jewish Refuseniks, like myself, who wished to emigrate to Israel; and many others.

Although an enormous diversity of opinion was behind bars in the Gulag, dissidents shared one belief in common: We all wanted to live in a free society. And despite our sometimes contradictory visions of the future, the dissident experience enabled all of us to agree on what freedom meant: A society is free if people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm. Each dissident envisaged a future in which his concerns were paramount, but no matter how fervent our individual desires, all the dissidents understood that a society that does not protect the right of dissent, even if the society perfectly conforms to their own unique values and ideas, will inevitably turn into a fear society that endangers everybody. While we dissidents vehemently disagreed about what type of free society we wanted to live in, we recognized that as long as dissent is possible we would always be safe to fight for our ideas.

A simple way to determine whether the right to dissent in a particular society is being upheld is to apply the town square test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it’s a fear society.

Some people who live in free societies may consider this test too expansive since, in addition to the liberal democracies, it includes many countries not always considered free. According to the town square test, societies where women are not allowed to vote, where discrimination is rampant, or where the economy is rigidly controlled can still be free. This valid criticism demonstrates that every society that meets the definition of “free” is not necessarily just. Rather, this test shows only that every society that passes it has crossed the threshold of freedom. In contrast, fear societies never cross this threshold and are always unjust.”

-Natan Sharansky, “The Case for Democracy” Pages 39-41

Learn more about Natan Sharansky’s other books

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