- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

Now moving as an invisible wave over the undeveloped and oppressed nations of the world is the natural force of self-governance. Most of the developed nations, following the American Revolution of 1776-81, adopted democratic governing in various forms. They later combined this with education and evolving capitalism, established increasingly successful and open societies.

The 20th century was not a steady advance, with new forms of totalitarian control emerging to enslave large populations.Fascismand communismdominateda worldwide struggle with democratic societies throughout the bulk of that century, including two world wars and a number of coups and civil wars that resulted in unprecedented violence and death on a mass scale.

After the defeat of fascism at mid-century, its totalitarian mirror-image, communism, fell apart in the final decade of the century, creating in the rich cultures of Eastern Europe a number of new self-governing states already educated and industrialized. At the same time, the two largest nations on Earth, each with populations of about 1 billion, emerged from their socialist slumbers to become rising world economic forces. India, already democratic (though torn by religious strife and violence) shed its socialism. China, maintaining a Marxist autocracy, began abandoning its socialistic practices and increasingly embraced capitalistic forms. These two countries will almost certainly rival the United States during this century.

Three large regions, however, did not participate in this political and economic transformation. In South and Central America, oligarchal and dictatorial regimes persisted, often briefly shaking off one form of totalitarian rule for another. Argentina, a great economic power of the 19th century there, lost its head to Peronism in the 20th century and still has not righted itself. An emerging economic power of the 20th century, Brazil, whose population is approaching 200 million, has only at the outset of the 21st century begun to realize its potential. Venezuela and Mexico, each with enormous oil reserves, continue to fail to create equitable democratic societies.

In Africa, which is beset by the worst impact of the international AIDS pandemic, tribal societies continue to trump true democratic capitalism, although the long-suffering oppression of the majority blacks by the South African Boer regime was finally overthrown at the end of the last century, offering some hope for the continent’s current bleak future.

From North Africa through the Middle East to Pacific Asia, the mostly Islamic nations, in spite of their often immense wealth, historic culture and natural resources, have persisted with feudal forms of government. An almost 50-year grudge match with the tiny state of Israel has overwhelmed any impulse toward democratic capitalism. Ironically, the aggression of September 11 by a small but deadly number of Arab nationalist terrorists may have precipitated an unpredicted tidal wave toward self-government in this part of the world. Inlessthanoneyear, Afghanistan, the Palestinians and the new Iraqi government have held or will hold free elections. Of course, this is not taking place in a political vacuum, and this impulse toward self-government by Arab masses is being violently resisted by the totalitarian terrorists. Success is not assured, and there is no guarantee that the forces of totalitarianism will not rise again.

But totalitarianism is ultimately a loser in the world we now live in, with its stunning advances of transportation and communications. That is why the United States was attacked, why Europe is now under siege and why democratic capitalism has been targeted everywhere in the world. Violence is intimidating, and the terrorists know that, but the human species seems more determined to survive than to fall back to feudalism and perish.

Could anyone imagine feudal totalitarian regimes being able to cope with the horror and destruction of the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean? Does anyone suggest that such regimes would promptly and generously move to heal and restore the areas devastated by natural disaster?

Anti-Americanism, which is now fashionable in Europe, is really only words. When small terrorist groups combine this with violence, it can be deadly and temporarily intimidating, but the natural wave toward worldwide self-governing is much more powerful than terror and propaganda. The tsunami from the sea lasted only minutes, producing terrible destruction. The tidal wave of democratic capitalism has an indefinite duration, and it creates a whole and incalculably new world.

Barry Casselman occasionally writes for The Washington Times.

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