There is no doubt about the fact that European and American governments practise the best kind of democracy within their borders. And most of us have heard about the great efforts exerted by western regimes to rescue a kidnapped western national here and there. No sooner does a western embassy hear that one of its nationals is in danger somewhere than it mobilises all its capabilities to help him or her, whereas hundreds of Arab nationals might perish anywhere in the world without even being mentioned on the news.
The US government, for instance, never hesitates to send military personnel and even aircraft to rescue an American national who has got lost in a jungle or a desert. It sometimes goes even further by intervening militarily. We all remember how the Carter administration sacrificed its political future to rescue the US nationals who were taken hostage by Iranian students in Tehran in 1979. The operation was very risky indeed, but still the US president had no problem trying to save his citizens' lives, no matter what the outcome might be. The operation failed, but it was worth trying according to the US government.
We all also saw how the Americans dealt with the US citizen who was a member of Al Qaida in Afghanistan. While his fellow Arab and Muslim colleagues were shipped roughly to Guantanamo Bay as if they were a bunch of beasts, John Walker Lindh, known as the American Taliban, was taken aside to be sent first to Germany in a very respectable manner to be treated there, and then he was transferred to his homeland to be tried before a civil court. Meanwhile, the Arab Al Qaida members were tried before a martial court.
There is a world of difference between the way the Americans deal with a US national and the way they manhandle foreigners. This is by no means a criticism, as the US administration is solely responsible to the people who elected it. And I very much wish Arab governments would deal with their people in the same way America deals with its nationals, irrespective of treating foreigners badly.
It is also true that British colonialists were extremely brutal with the people they colonised in Asia and Africa, to the extent that the English racist poet Rudyard Kipling used to say that his dog was better than all the African servants working on his farm. Whereas western colonialists treated Third World people very badly, they used to do their best to care for their people back home. And of course all the wealth that the colonialists reaped from Asia and Africa was used for the good of the western people.
When we look now at the nature of international relations, we see a similar picture. The great western democracies still behave in much the same way towards Third World countries, if not worse, which contrasts flagrantly with the type of democracy they practise at home. Former US president George W. Bush had no problem at all turning into a horrible dictator when dealing with Arabs and Muslims. We all remember his famous saying "you are either with us or against us", which contrasts miserably with the basic doctrines of democracy. US strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski was even more fascist, regarding other races as inferior and barbaric.
Israel, in its turn, brags about being the only democracy in the Middle East, while at the same time treating non-Jews living in the Jewish state as third-, if not fourth-class citizens. In a word, western democracies are only democratic within their borders, and they have no qualms about practising the worst type of despotism abroad.
I am sure many of us have wondered about this. Why does a western democracy deal with its people in the nicest manner, while at the same time mistreating other people? Why does a western leader respect human rights to a remarkable degree inside his country, but have no problem behaving like a beast with other people? The answer is very simple. It is jungle democracy. A western leader deals with his people in the same way a predator deals with his cubs. We have all seen how a lioness, a hyena, a leopard, a wolf or other predators deal with the rest of the animals. They have no problem killing rabbits, deer, zebras and others. It is certainly strange to see a lioness tearing a gazelle into pieces, and then a minute later gently caressing its young in a very kind, motherly manner.
In other words, predators are very tender with their kind and very fierce and aggressive with others. And so are western democracies. There is no democracy in international relations. Thomas Hobbes' theory, in which he argues that "man is a wolf to other men", applies only to the West's dealing with other nations.
I wish we Arabs could follow this example. But alas, we seem to do exactly the opposite — we behave as hyenas with each other and as rabbits with others.
Dr Faisal Al Qasim is a Syrian journalist based in Doha.