Book Corner: The Case For Democracy by Natan Sharansky

I just finished reading Natan Sharansky’s The Case For Democracy–The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Mr. Sharansky was a political prisoner and dissident in the Soviet Union before being released and allowed to emigrate to Israel. There he became a freedom activist and politician. A well written and easy to read book about ‘fear societies’ versus ‘free societies’. It seems very applicable to the Iran situation right now.

The_case_for_democracy_bookcover“I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free.  I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere.  And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe.  By pursuing clear and consistent policies that link its relations with nondemocratic regimes to the degree of freedom enjoyed by the subjects of those regimes, the free world can transform any society on earth, including those that dominate the current landscape of the Middle East.  In so doing, tyranny can become, like slavery, an evil without a future.”

Mr. Sharansky states that it was the United States’ focus on internal human rights in the Soviet Union along with Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity (An ‘evil empire’ destined for the ‘ash heap of history’) that eventually brought the Soviet Union down.  He then discusses the West’s attempts during the Clinton era to prop up Yasser Arafat under the assumption that only a strong-arm dictator could control the Palestinians.  He counters that peace is never possible under a ‘fear society’ because the dictator must maintain an external enemy to help with the subjugation of his own people.  So while both the Soviet Union and the PLO sought legitimacy and aid from the West, they continued to use that aid to foment hatred for the West through their schooling and propaganda.  Mr. Sharansky believes that all of the aid sent to the PLO should have been tied to creating democratic institutions.

Much of what Mr. Sharansky writes appears timely today as the United States seeks to become friends with the tyrants of the world.  In the rush to establish relations with Cuba and Iran, we are sacrificing our commitment to liberty and freedom with the hopes that it will lead to peace.  However, as Mr. Sharansky points out, peace is not possible with regimes whose control of its people requires an external enemy.

For business litigation attorneys there are practical lessons to be learned about negotiation in this book.  Decaying tyrannies are always anxious to appear as if they are eager to negotiate treaties in order to gain legitimacy and usually money or technical help.  They will delay the negotiations and, often, when a deal is struck, they will renege on the deal.  Mr. Sharansky emphasizes the importance of moral clarity in promoting freedom and striking deals but that same clarity can apply in the litigation context.  His explanation of what drives a ‘fear society’ reminds attorneys to think thoroughly about what the other side in a negotiation really needs as a way of understanding where the negotiation is heading.

Click here to read a recent Washington Post article by Mr. Sharansky about the Iranian situation.

View the book on Amazon.com here.