'The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic.' Donald Rumsfeld.

Sunday Times June 7th 2015

At last....an acknowledgement that democracy is not for everyone. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the dismantling of the armed forces and police in Iraq was, at the very least, an act of the greatest naivety – unless the ensuing chaos and the emergence of ISIS were the original aims.

In his The Republic, the philosopher Plato lists five imperfect societies. Democracy is one of them. Plato argued that it encouraged bad leadership. He writes 'no one ....could grow up into a good man unless he were brought up from childhood in a good environment and given a good training; democracy with a grandiose gesture sweeps all this away and doesn't mind what the habits and background of its politicians are, provided that they profess themselves the people's friends.'

Most Arab boys are raised to think that they are little gods who can 'walk on water.'  I have seen boys as young as four or five enter a room and bark at their sisters,

"Jib myah. Bring me water." Most girls grumble and initially refuse but the coaxing of the parents ensures that the water is fetched. If the girls are unusually determined, the mother rises and fetches the water. The husbands allow this.

Boys spend the first two years of schooling in special classrooms at the Girls' School. The atmosphere there is kinder with the risk of bullying and violence in the playground removed. They also go home early, before the older boys are on the streets.

Boys are hardened against violence from the moment they can walk. I have seen a father slap his son's face hard to test his reaction. The boy's diaphragm lurches at the shock of the blow and the emotional hurt of being struck by his father. They quickly learn not to react, but merely to smile, thus gaining the father's approval. Bad behaviour is always covered up or 'made better' by a boy's father or uncle.

Given such a boyhood and adolescence, how does any young man reach adulthood with any sense of responsibility, accountability, a balanced view of the relationship between men and women or, indeed, any idea of collaborative action?

The answer is fear. Given their nurture, many Arab men will only abandon self-interest if they are afraid.  I believe that this is why the most stable Arab nations are either dictatorships or absolute monarchies.

To be born male in such a society is to be born into a life of privilege, extraordinary freedom, social supremacy and family responsibilities. A place for democracy?  I don't think so.

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