Last Chance For Democracy In The Arab World
I'm going to excerpt highlights here, but really you should go read the whole thing:
WITH the best intentions, President Bush recently declared that it's racist to say that Arabs can't build democracies. Is it?
I made the same claim in the run-up to the first Iraqi elections, when Western leftists desperate for Iraq to fail tried to block the vote by claiming that the population wasn't ready.
Iraqis deserved their chance. They got it. They voted. Three times. Each time along confessional or ethnic lines. They elected ward bosses, not national leaders.
Iraq doesn't have a democracy in any meaningful sense. It isn't even a nation. Iraqis didn't vote for freedom. They voted for revenge against each other.
Iraqi democracy hasn't yet failed entirely. But it looks as if it might. President Bush needs to face that possibility. Managing the regional and global consequences will be his responsibility. We will have to fight on elsewhere - with more realism and, regrettably, less idealism. The fools who hope Iraq will fail will face more wars, not fewer.
Meanwhile, the test for Iraq's elected government is straightforward: Can it excite Iraqis to a spirit of mortal sacrifice in defense of a constitutional system? The terrorists, insurgents and militiamen will die for their beliefs.
If other Iraqis will not risk their lives - in decisive numbers - to seize their unique chance at freedom, there is no hope. And Iraq is the entire Arab world's last hope.
As for the charge of racism leveled at skeptics of the Arab propensity for democracy, it would be true if the discussion were about individuals. Arabs in the United States are as capable of functioning within a democratic system as anyone else. They're just as American as any other citizens - because their families escaped the Middle East.
Arab states are another story: Their social, political, economic and cultural structures leave them catastrophically uncompetitive with the developed world.
A culture of blame prevents moral, social and political progress. This is a self-help universe. The nonsensical Arab insistence that all Arab problems are the fault of America and Israel (or the Crusades) ignores the fact that Arab civilization has been in decline for 700 years - and has been in utter disarray for the last 200.
This is a homemade failure. Through their own choices, cherished beliefs, values and norms, Arabs have condemned themselves to strategic incompetence. No society that oppresses women, denies advancement on merit even to men, indulges in fantastic hypocrisy, wallows in corruption, undervalues secular learning, reduces its god to a nasty disciplinarian and comforts itself with conspiracy theories will ever compete with us.
The question has been asked before: Despite the massive influx of petrodollars over a half-century, where are the great Arab universities, the research institutes, the cutting-edge industries, the efficient, humane governments, the enlightened societies?
The Arab world has behaved as irresponsibly as a drunk who won the lottery, squandering vast wealth and creating nothing beyond a few urban theme parks.
Surely, if Arab societies were capable of producing and sustaining democracies, we would see at least one.
Arab terrorism isn't about redressing wrongs. It's about revenge on a successful civilization that left the dungeon-cultures of the Middle East in the dust.
We've done what we could in Iraq, and we've done it nobly. We should not withdraw our troops precipitously, but the clock is ticking. It's now up to the Iraqis to succeed - or become yet another pathetic Arab failure. If Iraqis are unwilling to grasp the opportunity our soldiers and Marines bought them with American blood, it's their tragedy, not ours.
We did the right thing by deposing Saddam Hussein. The Arab Middle East needed one last chance. Iraq is it. If Iraqi democracy fails, there will be no hope, whatsoever, for the Arab world.