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The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror

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Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet dissident who spent a decade in gulags, has authored his vision for defeating terrorists worldwide: launching a flood of democratic initiatives, especially in totalitarian regimes. This book, which gained the attention of President Bush and his administration, outlines Sharansky's strategies - based on personal experience - for making the Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet dissident who spent a decade in gulags, has authored his vision for defeating terrorists worldwide: launching a flood of democratic initiatives, especially in totalitarian regimes. This book, which gained the attention of President Bush and his administration, outlines Sharansky's strategies - based on personal experience - for making the world a safer place.


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Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet dissident who spent a decade in gulags, has authored his vision for defeating terrorists worldwide: launching a flood of democratic initiatives, especially in totalitarian regimes. This book, which gained the attention of President Bush and his administration, outlines Sharansky's strategies - based on personal experience - for making the Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet dissident who spent a decade in gulags, has authored his vision for defeating terrorists worldwide: launching a flood of democratic initiatives, especially in totalitarian regimes. This book, which gained the attention of President Bush and his administration, outlines Sharansky's strategies - based on personal experience - for making the world a safer place.

30 review for The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Pros 1. Sharansky is an engaging writer. He has a considerable amount of passion for the subject, which helps carry the book along (and which is also one of the cons). 2. Sharansky does a good job of providing a history of one aspect of the Cold War, the dissident movement in the East Bloc and its importance in the final denouement of that conflict. 3. Sharansky provides an in-depth narrative of Israeli/Palestinian politics during the 1990s. 4. Sharansky's basic points - that democratic societies a Pros 1. Sharansky is an engaging writer. He has a considerable amount of passion for the subject, which helps carry the book along (and which is also one of the cons). 2. Sharansky does a good job of providing a history of one aspect of the Cold War, the dissident movement in the East Bloc and its importance in the final denouement of that conflict. 3. Sharansky provides an in-depth narrative of Israeli/Palestinian politics during the 1990s. 4. Sharansky's basic points - that democratic societies are better to live in than repressive societies, that their is nothing inherent in any person mandating they have to live in an authoritarian regime, that a world in which people have broad freedoms, rights and responsibilities is better than a world in which people are pawns in the games of autocrats - are hard to argue with. Cons 1. The problem with Sharansky's thesis is that he is never convincing in his assertion that every culture is amenable to democracy and the rule of the individual. Some cultures lend themselves to rule by an authoritarian government, whether it is secular or religiously based. That is not to say that democracy and the rule of the individual can't change a given culture so that they become reconciled. Rather, this change would mean a radical shift in that culture. 2. The history of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is interesting, but a 70 page tangent. It does little to support his thesis. 3. His thesis about the outcome of the Cold War, while accurate as far as it goes, is woefully incomplete. One could certainly look at the inherent economic flaws in the Soviet communist system, the sclerotic leadership class, the over reliance on military force for holding the Soviet Empire together, the failure of the neo-Marxist liberation movements in the post-colonial world to deliver anything except for a new set of oppressors, etc, for the way the Cold War ended. 4. His argument that democracies are more peaceful is weak, given that the age of what we would recognize as modern democracies (a broad franchise, a robust legislature, a focus on the individual as the basic unit of society) is fairly new. The farthest back you can push this is the early 20th century. One could argue that it actually came later, with the end of segregation in America and the end of the European empires. Either period is distorted by the global wars of the first half of the 20th century - in which democracy seemed to be in retreat - or the Cold War - in which the Free World had an external threat that set limits on just how much they would clash. Even then, there were periods of tension within the Western Alliance (e.g., Suez 56, the lack of FW support in Vietnam). While there was never a serious threat of war amongst the Western democracies, this was in part due to the existential threat of the USSR. So, while free society democracies - societies in which people have an unfettered voice in some key aspect of the policy decision process, whether direct (voting on a given policy) or indirect (electing representatives) and in which their is a free political voice (both personal - me on a soapbox - or public - me writing in a newspaper) - may be more peaceful, the period we are looking at has features that make that conclusion problematic. In earlier, proto-democratic eras (the lead up to World War One) combatants (some, not all) on both sides were along a spectrum of limited democracies with free presses and the citizenry went enthusiastically off to war. Further, democracies have not proven themselves to be more peaceful than other forms of government. Our own history is full of wars and military operations, few of which were forced on us. I'm not arguing against democracy, just that the democracy=peace meme is flawed. 5. Finally, while he is passionate and engaging, there are times when this passion leads to either assertions or to tangents that do support his basic thesis.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Natan Sharansky knows more about resisting tyranny than most, having been incarcerated in a prison of one of history's greatest tyrannies-the Soviet Union, as he illustrated in his incredible memoirs Fear No Evil: The Classic Memoir of One Man's Triumph over a Police State In this book he puts under the microscope the totalitarian states of the world, dissecting the inner workings of fear societies. Sharansky contrasts fear societies with free societies. The profound moral difference between a fre Natan Sharansky knows more about resisting tyranny than most, having been incarcerated in a prison of one of history's greatest tyrannies-the Soviet Union, as he illustrated in his incredible memoirs Fear No Evil: The Classic Memoir of One Man's Triumph over a Police State In this book he puts under the microscope the totalitarian states of the world, dissecting the inner workings of fear societies. Sharansky contrasts fear societies with free societies. The profound moral difference between a free society and a fear society, as Sharansky shows us, is that people in free societies can publicly express their own ideas and persuade people to accept these ideas as well. Sharansky points out that "moral clarity provides us with a place to stand, a reference point from where to leverage our talents, energies and ideas to create a better world. Without moral clarity, without a referewnce point, those same talents, ideas and energies are just as likely to do harm as good...A world without moral clarity is a world in which dictators speak of human rights even as they kill thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people. It is a world in which the only democracy in the Middle East is percieved as the greatest violator of human rights in the world. It is a world in which a human rights conference against racism, such as the one that took place in Durban, South Africa a few years ago, can be turned into a carnival of hate". Sharansky reminds us that there has never been a war between two democracies. He attacks those who believe that democracy cannot work in certain countries, pointing out that the same was said about Germany and Japan during and just after the Second World War. Today Germany and Japan are among the world's strongest democracies and human rights societies in the world. Sharansky also condemmns the distortions by the world media, painting the masses in tyrannies such as that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the Taleban in Afghanistan, as being contented. He compares this to leftist intellectuals in the West who praised the Soviet Union as a paradise on earth at a time when Stalin was killing tens of millions of men, women and children. While Sharansky is hopeful for an eventual peace settlement betwen Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, he is adamant that this must be tied to improvements in human rights and basic freedoms in Palestinian society. He condemmns the Oslo Process for strengthening and attempting to appease the mass murderer and tyrant Yasser Arafat and his ruthless terror network. He points out how the human rights principles that once guided him in the Soviet Union remain the cornerstone of his approach to the peace process, that a neighbour who tramples the rights of his own people will eventually threaten the rights of the author's people, and that the only way to create Arab-Israeli reconciliation is to press the Arab world to protect human rights. Sharansky reminds us that those who hoped for a quick fix to the conflict should not have been surprised when the Oslo process collapsed and Arafat began his war of terror against the Israeli people. For seven years Arafat had been doing what all dictators do, using his power not to promote peace and better the lot of the Palestinian Arabs but rather to turn the Palestinian Arabs into a battering ram against the Jewish State. Money allocated to improve the Palestinian Arab's living standards was diverted to support a vast network of terror. "By allowing and often encouraging Arafat to create a fear society, a peace process that should have been steadily reducing a century old animus had instead exacerbated it". Sharansky stresses that he is not opposed to legitimate criticism of Israel's policies. However to distinguish legitimate criticism from anti-Semitism he has come up with what he calls the 3 D Test. If the criticism of Israel contains demonization of the Jewish State, double standards against the Jewish State, or delegitimization of the Jewish State, then it certainly can be termed anti-Semitic. Sharansky believes that bthe war between the Jews and the Arabs is not a tribal war but a part of the first world war of the 21st century between the world of democracy and the world of terror. Leftwing extremists who support tyranny ands terror and who do not want people to be free, will of course try to rubbish the book. But for true lovers of freedom and human rights, this is an essential guide to understanding the great struggle we are faced with at the beginning of the 21st century.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    A frustrating and simplistic book by a guy who is personally inspiring. Sharansky's main argument is essentially a less nuanced version of the democratic peace theory: democratic leaders rely on popular will to stay in power, and the people do not want wars, so democracies go to war less often. He overlooks that the democratic peace is really about democracies not fighting each other, and doesn't really offer any evidence beyond single cases for his argument. He also puts forth a "Reagan and Sco A frustrating and simplistic book by a guy who is personally inspiring. Sharansky's main argument is essentially a less nuanced version of the democratic peace theory: democratic leaders rely on popular will to stay in power, and the people do not want wars, so democracies go to war less often. He overlooks that the democratic peace is really about democracies not fighting each other, and doesn't really offer any evidence beyond single cases for his argument. He also puts forth a "Reagan and Scoop Jackson" won the Cold War without much serious engagement with the social/economic problems of the USSR or the reforms of Gorbachev. The lesson, then, is that democratic societies can never create lasting agreements with "fear-societies" (code for totalitarians, as intermediate forms don't exist in this argument) because they need foreign enemies to justify domestic oppression. Instead, they must always link concessions or incentives given to these societies to democratization and human rights improvements within that society. Just because this worked in the USSR, doesn't mean it can work everywhere. Sharansky also simplistically claims that that a free people will never choose authoritarianism. Not only does this overlook a vast sweep of historical examples, but it also runs up against the rising wave of right-wing authoritarians in the world today, many of whom were democratically elected. The bulk of the book is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Sharansky has lived in Israel since the 1990's and is a conservative in the Knesset. I appreciate many of his arguments about how criticism of Israel is absolutely unreasonable in many circles, and I think he's on to something in arguing that without democratic reform in Palestine there can't be lasting peace. He's right to say that Arafat has been a terrible partner for peace, that he and the PA did nothing to reform Palestine or stop terrorism and anti-IS propaganda, and that many Israelis and Americans pushed the peace process too far even when it was clear that Arafat was not reciprocating. However, he also ignores the extent to which Israeli policies, especially the settlements (which are basically not mentioned in this book) contribute to the ongoing stalemate. Either he's being dishonest or simplistic here (I felt that way throughout most of the book). PS: One can see why George W. Bush gravitated to this book as he put together the "freedom agenda" policy in 2004 as IQ started to go downhill. The book is self-righteous and lacks critical thinking or complexity. Sound familiar? Be careful of this book: Sharansky is an inspirational person who I think means well, but it may be that his experiences have made him too much of a moral absolutist. Or maybe he's just bringing out the Mearsheimer in me. Still, this is a good book for scholars of Neo-conservatives, human rights, democracy, and totalitarianism.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book definitely has a powerful (and reassuring) central idea: namely, that democracy is a force for good in the world and worth spreading. Unfortunately, the examples Sharansky uses (Germany and Japan) make for absolutely poor comparisons to Iraq and Afghanistan.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Mr. Sharansky is a former Soviet Jewish dissident and political prisoner who has championed the cause of democracy and freedom. In this book, he makes a strong case for the power of free, democratic countries to encourage freedom and democracy throughout the world. He argues that democratic countries throughout the world are much safer for America than are any kind of dictatorships. He even argues that America can play a strong role in bringing democracy to the non-democratic middle east. He sho Mr. Sharansky is a former Soviet Jewish dissident and political prisoner who has championed the cause of democracy and freedom. In this book, he makes a strong case for the power of free, democratic countries to encourage freedom and democracy throughout the world. He argues that democratic countries throughout the world are much safer for America than are any kind of dictatorships. He even argues that America can play a strong role in bringing democracy to the non-democratic middle east. He shows how America and Israel have missed many opportunities to press for human rights for oppressed nations and therefore has missed opportunities to increase their own security. The book reads well and argues forcefully, yet calmly. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the condition of the world, human rights, and the security interests of the United States.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Abdulrahman

    While I agree with the basic idea of the book, the writer shows lots of hypocrisy when trying to bend his principles to defend Israel. He also stated clear lies as facts of history (when talking about the peace treaty between prophet Mohammad and his enemies in the city of Mekka).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sean Rife

    Good, but a bit overly simplistic and somewhat intellectually lacking.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    To be honest, I couldn't finish this book (I read more than half). While I agree totally with the author's point(s) I just got tired of reading his self-adulation (if that's even a word). To be honest, I couldn't finish this book (I read more than half). While I agree totally with the author's point(s) I just got tired of reading his self-adulation (if that's even a word).

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    In author Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, he defines and then contrasts Fear Societies (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, etc) with Free Societies (Israel, United States, Canada, etc). Having spent a decade in the gulags of the Soviet Union befor egaining his freedom and eventually becoming a member of the Israeli Parliament, he knows from personal experience what he is writing about. Whereas in a free society it is is the best interest In author Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, he defines and then contrasts Fear Societies (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, etc) with Free Societies (Israel, United States, Canada, etc). Having spent a decade in the gulags of the Soviet Union befor egaining his freedom and eventually becoming a member of the Israeli Parliament, he knows from personal experience what he is writing about. Whereas in a free society it is is the best interests of the elected leader to work to improve the lives of its citizens, in a fear society the leader works to enrich himself at the expense of the people. Thus, in the case of the Palestinians, money sent by the UN and member states intended as food and medical aid to help the Palestinian people was mostly used to buy weapons to use against the Israelis or into the private Swiss bank accounts of Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile, as the author explains, to maintain their control in a fear society, leaders must focus the anger and frustrations of their people to blame a scapegoat. For example: for the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims that would be Israel; for Cuba it has primariliy been the United States; for North Korea it has been primarily the United States. The reason for their poverty and crime is always someone else and they can maintain control even to the extent of ordering suicide bombings and other attacks. This was a well thought out and well written discussion of the issues and the author explains why the Palestinians will never agree to peace with Israel no matter how much they are given as long as they operate from a frea society. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in world peace.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cliff

    Sharansky, a former refusenik turned Israeli politician turned philosopher, is part memoir, part political philosophy, and a lot of interesting discussion of issues both contemporary and past, and what they mean. I think one of the most interesting things about the book was his discussion of double speak and double think, of what it means to think and talk and believe in a "fear society," where the default is to either mask what you think, or to never really allow yourself to think it out of fea Sharansky, a former refusenik turned Israeli politician turned philosopher, is part memoir, part political philosophy, and a lot of interesting discussion of issues both contemporary and past, and what they mean. I think one of the most interesting things about the book was his discussion of double speak and double think, of what it means to think and talk and believe in a "fear society," where the default is to either mask what you think, or to never really allow yourself to think it out of fear. The former Soviet Union was such a place, and Sharansky desperately doesn't want other places to be the same. Including his Arab neighbors in his new home in Israel. Sharansky is often called a "neo-con," a term I'm still not convinced anyone could really pin down aside from it's critics meaning of it, in which it means little more than "warmonger," and perhaps even "Jewish warmonger." But whatever the case of his beliefs about the efficacy or prudence of conflict with "fear" societies based on abuses of power, his descriptions of them are real and meaningful. And I don't think anyone can read the history of the Soviet Union and not understand why he's so passionate about of what he speaks.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    There is no doubt one may disagree with Natan Sharansky's approach or political ideology as a means; however, one who is adamantly a supporter of democracy cannot argue against Sharansky's end: democracy promotes freedom and security. And except for megalomaniacs, the majority of people in the world crave freedom. Sharansky calls for all democratic nations and peoples to reclaim a much needed quality and characteristic for all humanity: the need for moral clarity. We must listen to a prophet's v There is no doubt one may disagree with Natan Sharansky's approach or political ideology as a means; however, one who is adamantly a supporter of democracy cannot argue against Sharansky's end: democracy promotes freedom and security. And except for megalomaniacs, the majority of people in the world crave freedom. Sharansky calls for all democratic nations and peoples to reclaim a much needed quality and characteristic for all humanity: the need for moral clarity. We must listen to a prophet's voice!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ben Pashkoff

    Sharansky is a living, breathing hero of our time. To hear him speak, you would not think so, but that just improves his stature. To have lived and talked of the events of his life is a journey few have undergone and to have a clear, concise view of the world today is simply amazing. We can have no real peace when the the countries we are at war with continue to oppress their own. We can have no dialog with dictators without understanding that how their own citizens are treated, they will also tr Sharansky is a living, breathing hero of our time. To hear him speak, you would not think so, but that just improves his stature. To have lived and talked of the events of his life is a journey few have undergone and to have a clear, concise view of the world today is simply amazing. We can have no real peace when the the countries we are at war with continue to oppress their own. We can have no dialog with dictators without understanding that how their own citizens are treated, they will also treat their enemies.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Steinhauser

    A compelling case for supporting freedom and democracy in foreign affairs. The author was a dissident in the former Soviet Union who became a powerful voice for opposing tyrannical regimes around the world.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Mirza

    In addition to the personal experience of the author who had lived under a totalitarian regime, the book presents how the elites democratic supporters confront the authoritarian regimes in spite of the challenges and difficulties and the Middle East as an example.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    Excellent book. I appreciated Sharansky’s insight into how the US handled peace negotiations with the USSR compared to its policy with Middle Eastern countries. As well, countries with a foundation of freedom vs a foundation of fear.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Good but not my scene

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    A must-read book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Veloz

    A short book that deserves... Some consideration today. Natan Sharansky wrote this book in the mid 2000's when the focus of American and Israeli policy was to promote democratization in the Middle East. Fast forward to 2016 and with the failures of the Arab spring, the raging civil war in Syria, the chaos in Libya, and Iraq teetering on the edge of disunity, Israel becoming more rigid on the peace process, and worse of all the rise of ISIS, anyone who reads this book could easily dismiss Sharansk A short book that deserves... Some consideration today. Natan Sharansky wrote this book in the mid 2000's when the focus of American and Israeli policy was to promote democratization in the Middle East. Fast forward to 2016 and with the failures of the Arab spring, the raging civil war in Syria, the chaos in Libya, and Iraq teetering on the edge of disunity, Israel becoming more rigid on the peace process, and worse of all the rise of ISIS, anyone who reads this book could easily dismiss Sharansky as a naïve human rights activist from the cold war years gone by. But the genius of this book is that the issue of democratization today, not just in the Middle East but around the world, is growing in importance. Fear societies, societies Sharansky describes as repressive of basic fundamental rights which make a democracy possible are on the rise today. From Russia to Asia fear societies have openly called into question the need for democracy, and are actively undermining the democratic world order. In free societies, those societies Sharansky describes as those which protect fundamental rights that make democracy possible, there has been a growing acceptance of fear, and the morality of fear societies. The acceptance of fear societies as moral equals is chipping away at the democratic foundations on which free societies rest. I don't need to spend time talking about a certain presidential candidate whose whole campaign is based on fear or the Russian autocrat that is actively undermining free societies in western Europe; and the lack of believe in the democratic hopes of the people in Syria, Libya and other societies of the Middle East that genuinely yearn for democratic change but which were instead abandoned when they mostly needed the aid of free societies. The book has its flaws since Sharansky doesn't develop a more nuanced theory as to the importance of democracy overall and instead spends too much time examining and explaining away controversial Israeli policies. But overall it is a powerful defense of democracy and democratic societies. In today's world this book should be read again and again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gyoza

    Natan Sharansky, an erstwhile political prisoner in the Soviet Union, writes about how to accurately tell a free society from a "fear" society (one in which people do not enjoy basic liberties and are kept in check by their leaders through fear of punishment). He makes a good case for why it is in the interest of free societies to conduct their foreign policy in such a way as to link benefits granted to fear societies with requirements that the fear society reform its domestic practices. Fear so Natan Sharansky, an erstwhile political prisoner in the Soviet Union, writes about how to accurately tell a free society from a "fear" society (one in which people do not enjoy basic liberties and are kept in check by their leaders through fear of punishment). He makes a good case for why it is in the interest of free societies to conduct their foreign policy in such a way as to link benefits granted to fear societies with requirements that the fear society reform its domestic practices. Fear societies tend to be poorer and less innovative than free ones, so they often need aid, technology, and other things from free societies, but two of the ways they keep their population in check is 1) to distribute the benefits received so as to keep their population dependent on the dictator's good graces and 2) to present the free society to their people as an enemy in order to produce a state of internal solidarity and hostility against it (as if there were a war going on). Appeasement of dictators is therefore counterproductive as it leads to a vicious circle of increasing their power, aggravating tensions between the countries, and further appeasement by the free society. It was particularly interesting to read this book shortly after George Kennan's At a Century's Ending: Reflections, 1982-1995 because Kennan has a more traditional view on foreign policy, i.e. stay out of other countries' domestic policy and just concern yourself with their foreign policy. Sharansky uses the relations between the US and USSR during the Cold War and the (seemingly endless) Israeli-Palestinian peace process as examples to illustrate why the traditional approach doesn't work when dealing with fear societies.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dottie Resnick

    I listened to this book, not just once, but twice. It was that good and I still do not think I got out of it as much as I can. Natan Sharansky finished this book in 2005 and although I would really like to hear what he thinks about the world and how things have progressed since he completed this, I can tell you that it is as pertinent today (IF NOT MORE SO) than it was then. He was held in a Soviet prison as a Jewish dissident, and supposed American spy for years. During Reagan's term as Preside I listened to this book, not just once, but twice. It was that good and I still do not think I got out of it as much as I can. Natan Sharansky finished this book in 2005 and although I would really like to hear what he thinks about the world and how things have progressed since he completed this, I can tell you that it is as pertinent today (IF NOT MORE SO) than it was then. He was held in a Soviet prison as a Jewish dissident, and supposed American spy for years. During Reagan's term as President he was released and as since lived in Israel. His ideas about a free society versus a fear society, where one can go into the public square and speak freely and openly without fear of being arrested, imprisoned, tortured or hurt by the government or others. I have my doubts that many citizens of the world would be comfortable in that scenario either due to their government or even their fellow citizens. It is scary to think that in America people are shot at nightclubs because it is known as a "gay nightclub" or that people are attacked in Israel because they are not the "same level of observant Jew" as someone else or that people are rounded up (or kidnapped) because they are "outsiders" for whatever reason, race, religion, sexual orientation, political convictions, you name it. This book has certainly given me a lot to think about and I think that it should definitely be recommended reading for all people, especially politicians and people anyone who has the power or desire to make changes in our world. There is no magic formula, but if we can get more people to think in this way, maybe it can make a difference.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joel Justiss

    Sharansky, a Soviet political prisoner become Israeli government minister, tells how the desire of the Soviet peoples for freedom led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. He argues that everyone wants freedom, and that given an adequate opportunity, the people of any nation will choose democracy over tyranny. He states his belief that democratic governments are much better world citizens than dictatorships, and much less likely to wage wars. He applies this theory to the Arab/Israeli conflict, u Sharansky, a Soviet political prisoner become Israeli government minister, tells how the desire of the Soviet peoples for freedom led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. He argues that everyone wants freedom, and that given an adequate opportunity, the people of any nation will choose democracy over tyranny. He states his belief that democratic governments are much better world citizens than dictatorships, and much less likely to wage wars. He applies this theory to the Arab/Israeli conflict, urging the West to pressure the Palestinian Authority and the repressive governments of Arab states to build democratic institutions. 10 In the Soviet Union, “truth” and “falsehood” were, like everything else, the property of the State. 40 A society is free if people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm. 74 Elections are never the beginning of the democratic process. Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place—such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties—can free elections be held. 82 Propaganda, state control of the media, personality cults, and so on will only go so far toward maintaining the convictions of true believers and trying to recruit new ones. Accordingly fear regimes look to other methods to stay in power. One of the oldest and most effective is the creation of external enemies, which are used to slow down the natural process of alienation within fear societies.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trudy Pomerantz

    Sharansky's analysis of tyranny - and the problem of the US and other free countries making deals with tyrannical governments or individual tyrants was very persuasive. It was in keeping with my belief that the US fails to understand that our enemy's enemy is not necessarily our friend. He makes an excellent point that any government (or individual) who would mistreat its own citizens is not going to make a good ally. I also found very believable Sharansky's argument that tyrannical government o Sharansky's analysis of tyranny - and the problem of the US and other free countries making deals with tyrannical governments or individual tyrants was very persuasive. It was in keeping with my belief that the US fails to understand that our enemy's enemy is not necessarily our friend. He makes an excellent point that any government (or individual) who would mistreat its own citizens is not going to make a good ally. I also found very believable Sharansky's argument that tyrannical government or tyrants need an external enemy; while it may suit them for a time to work with the US if they need to control their own people by having an external enemy then they are quite able to take money from the US government while also inciting their own people against the US. I found his arguments less persuasive that all people want freedom - and I wonder if this book were writte His argument and description of how society functions under tyranny also made sense - and his belief that you can't have a society which is living under tyranny move overnight to being free. His proposal that elections should not be immediately held after a war which has lead to the fall of a tyrant was also very persuasive. I would be interested in his analysis of the changes in the Middle East and Russia over the past few years. The book was written in 2004.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phoenix

    In Praise of Freedom Reading this book will bring a song to your heart. I'm not entirely convinced by Sharansky's argument that democracy is the royal road to peace and freedom - I'm still letting the book sink in (it stays with you - which is why I think that its a good, no great, book!) - but I can hardly disagree with the example of his own life and experience. Whether or not he is right I found him inspiring. I think others might too and thus my recommendation. Much credit for the prose belo In Praise of Freedom Reading this book will bring a song to your heart. I'm not entirely convinced by Sharansky's argument that democracy is the royal road to peace and freedom - I'm still letting the book sink in (it stays with you - which is why I think that its a good, no great, book!) - but I can hardly disagree with the example of his own life and experience. Whether or not he is right I found him inspiring. I think others might too and thus my recommendation. Much credit for the prose belongs to his co-author Rod Dermer. I have heard Sharansky speak and while he is both eloquent and inspiring English is not his first language. Mr. Dermer deserves our thanks in bringing out the essence of the man. Anyway, skim through a few more reviews and then say yes to getting a copy of this book. If you belong to a book club then add it to your discussion list. Hand it to your children when they have to write an essay on civics or the fall of the Soviet Union. You will understand the value of freedom and democracy that much better when you see it through the eyes of someone who kept his principles and had these things denied.

  24. 4 out of 5

    J

    I read this book a second time in 2006. Overall it's a wrongheaded book. The author writes with ostensible concern for Palestinians but devotes pretty much nothing to Israeli causes of their predicament, thereby unfairly attributing Palestinian problems primarily if not solely to Palestinians. This analysis is one-sided, to put it mildly, if not outright dishonest and Machiavellian. Despite all this plus his sycophantic, psychologically adept appeals to the hubris of his American readership, the I read this book a second time in 2006. Overall it's a wrongheaded book. The author writes with ostensible concern for Palestinians but devotes pretty much nothing to Israeli causes of their predicament, thereby unfairly attributing Palestinian problems primarily if not solely to Palestinians. This analysis is one-sided, to put it mildly, if not outright dishonest and Machiavellian. Despite all this plus his sycophantic, psychologically adept appeals to the hubris of his American readership, the book has some good observations and statements such as the town-square free speech litmus test and the phenomenon of doublespeak. Sharansky definitely knows what he's talking about -- liberty and democracy -- but does not actually champion them for Palestinians. Instead, I believe he is an apologist for the status quo, because he chooses not to address the root cause of their predicament and instead very deftly diverts American attention to the supposed Palestinian root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Don

    statements for electorate vs truth, free society can lose moral courage, fear societies and free societies, détente is French word meaning relaxation, confront not appease, no respect for human rights is no respect for neighbor, promote true human rights promotes freedom, freedom is transformational, Islam is no difference between church and state vs Christianity render to Caesar, 22 middle east countries not free far east like India are free, the butcher is dead, world of double think as part o statements for electorate vs truth, free society can lose moral courage, fear societies and free societies, détente is French word meaning relaxation, confront not appease, no respect for human rights is no respect for neighbor, promote true human rights promotes freedom, freedom is transformational, Islam is no difference between church and state vs Christianity render to Caesar, 22 middle east countries not free far east like India are free, the butcher is dead, world of double think as part of fear, journalists did not question truth and thus Stalin portrayed as good, Kissinger continue same with limited human rights, Soviets fear society own undoing, Reagan courage to speak truth, closed and open societies, right to life is highest right to protect, media propaganda works when no moral clarity or truth, Sharon memory, world of terror vs world of democracy, terror will lose with no respect for life, accommodation vs confrontation, cannot rely on moderate for free society, road to peace paved with freedom, freedom must be led by all peoples as all peoples created equal.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    Subtitled The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror, Sharansky believes that offering the same respect to dissidents and reformers in the Middle East that we offered to dissidents and reformers in the Soviet Union, that is, linking freedom of speech and other freedoms to any aid or other deals, will lead to functioning democracies. Many people remain convinced that freedom is not for everyone, that its expansion is not always desirable, and that there is little that the free world can do Subtitled The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror, Sharansky believes that offering the same respect to dissidents and reformers in the Middle East that we offered to dissidents and reformers in the Soviet Union, that is, linking freedom of speech and other freedoms to any aid or other deals, will lead to functioning democracies. Many people remain convinced that freedom is not for everyone, that its expansion is not always desirable, and that there is little that the free world can do to promote it. Just as they were wrong a generation ago about Russia, and two generations ago about Japan and Germany, the skeptics are wrong today… I have no doubt that the Arabs want to be free. He makes a very compelling case for treating dictatorships in the Middle East—from Palestine to Saudi Arabia—the same as we treated them in Europe, rather than assuming dictatorships are the best way to assure peace in the region.

  27. 5 out of 5

    C

    A book President George W. Bush stated inspired him during his presidency, the toughest question is asked in foreign policy - does Democracy fix terrorism? Notedly, this commentary is written by a former Soviet Jewish dissident who was imprisoned by the Soviet Union for his politics and later served as an Israeli government minister. He addresses nearly every aspect in modern history in which dictatorships ruled and how democracy effected or currently effects those nations who suppress their own A book President George W. Bush stated inspired him during his presidency, the toughest question is asked in foreign policy - does Democracy fix terrorism? Notedly, this commentary is written by a former Soviet Jewish dissident who was imprisoned by the Soviet Union for his politics and later served as an Israeli government minister. He addresses nearly every aspect in modern history in which dictatorships ruled and how democracy effected or currently effects those nations who suppress their own people. While I do not agree with many points in this book, it is rather idealistic, I do believe it should be taken into consideration, and as an added challenge to how we approach our friends and foes in this world. Only half the story, however, was related to democracy and terrorism; the second half served as a diatribe for Israeli and Palestinian politics and became far more one sided and emotionally weighted. A story to be told on its own, it did not belong in this commentary.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The author is a Soviet Jew who spent 12 years in prison for trumped up charges of spying. He emigrated to Isreal after his release and spent some time working to integrate other immigrants into life in Isreal. Eventually he became involved in politics and makes a very compelling case for dividing governments into either democracies or terror states. He makes the case that the suggestion that 'Arabs' do not want 'freedom' or can't live in a democracy is shortsighted and gives as examples the foun The author is a Soviet Jew who spent 12 years in prison for trumped up charges of spying. He emigrated to Isreal after his release and spent some time working to integrate other immigrants into life in Isreal. Eventually he became involved in politics and makes a very compelling case for dividing governments into either democracies or terror states. He makes the case that the suggestion that 'Arabs' do not want 'freedom' or can't live in a democracy is shortsighted and gives as examples the founding of democracies in places like Japan and West Germany. This book is quite up to date and deals events in the Middle East up through the 2nd Bush presidency. There seems to be a lot of good information here. Some of it I got on this read but it certainly merits a second reading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    Natan Sharansky was a Jewish political dissident under the tyranny of Soviet rule before the fall of the USSR, and a man that Ronald Reagan made a personal crusade of freeing from bondage. Held for almost a decade in the KGB prison Lefortovo, he explains the hope that Reagan brought to those prisoners with his "Evil Empire" speech and how he knew then that it was the beginning of the end. Sharansky does a brilliant job of helping the reader to understand why we must support the cause of freedom Natan Sharansky was a Jewish political dissident under the tyranny of Soviet rule before the fall of the USSR, and a man that Ronald Reagan made a personal crusade of freeing from bondage. Held for almost a decade in the KGB prison Lefortovo, he explains the hope that Reagan brought to those prisoners with his "Evil Empire" speech and how he knew then that it was the beginning of the end. Sharansky does a brilliant job of helping the reader to understand why we must support the cause of freedom among all peoples, because when one nation is under tyranny and oppression then all nations are at risk.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This book was excellent. Sharansky's ideas on moral clarity, the differences between fear and free societies, the inherently belligerent nature of dictatorships and the role of democracy in forming politically reliable states I believe is right on. A must read for any one that is interested in modern politics and nation development. He could have gone beyond the Isreal-Palestine conflict to include other examples of unstable fear societies (there are many) but his reliance on this example is und This book was excellent. Sharansky's ideas on moral clarity, the differences between fear and free societies, the inherently belligerent nature of dictatorships and the role of democracy in forming politically reliable states I believe is right on. A must read for any one that is interested in modern politics and nation development. He could have gone beyond the Isreal-Palestine conflict to include other examples of unstable fear societies (there are many) but his reliance on this example is understandable given his position as an Isreali minister.

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