in the fight against Islamists and jihadists, these words about the Western world’s role in changing the communist world from Archie Brown (in the concluding chapter of The Rise and Fall of Communism):
The part played by Western democracies in producing change in the Communist world did not lie primarily in their military alliance. Important though that was for discouraging further Communist expansion, it also helped Communist leaders to maintain their power, and, in some countries, to win quite broad popular acceptance. Great stress was placed on the threat posed by external enemies, and the regime’s domestic critics were portrayed as being in thrall to the malign West. It was through simply being there as a better alternative to Communist rule that democracies prevailed in the battle of ideas. The example of greater tolerance, of free elections, accountable government, and respect for human rights, plus substantially higher living standards, had a profound effect not only on the minority of citizens from the Communist states who had the opportiunity to visit Western countries, but on the more open minded Communist officials themselves.
Of course, it’s overly simplistic to compare the former Communist states with the rather mixed bag of states that may be tempted by (or are threatened by) extremist Islamist solutions, but there are some parallels. Ensuring that our societies do not abandon the principles that still make them attractive should be seen as part of the effort to win the war against extremist Islamist ideas. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Somalia we must ensure that Western society is a beacons of hope to those that aspire to create democracies in the future, or who are struggling to create one now. Our enemies have shown in Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, and Somalia that they have nothing to offer besides the spilling of blood. It is up to our society to maintain our values, and extend the hand of hope and solidarity to democrats throughout the world for as long as it takes for them to grasp it.