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Monday, May 08, 2006

Realistically Supporting a Democratic Ideal

Madeline Albright, who once chased after Yasser Arafat in her high-heeled shoes after the latter stormed out of a negotiating session with Ehud Barak, has an op-ed in today's Washington Post, in which she argues in favor of fostering democracy in the Middle East with realistic expectations of what it is likely to bring. Albright says - correctly in my opinion - that:
If Arab democracy develops, it will do so to advance Arab aspirations based on Arab perceptions of history and justice. The right to vote and hold office is unlikely to soften Arab attitudes toward Israel or to end the potential for terror, just as it has been unable to prevent terrorist cells from organizing in the West.
However, I am not certain that Albright is correct that:
Democracy should, however, create a broader and more open political debate within Arab countries, exposing myths to scrutiny and extreme ideas to rebuttal. Though some may fear such an opening, Americans should welcome it. For if we fail to value free expression, we forget our own history.
It is hard to believe that the likes of Hamas is going to be willing to re-stand for election in three or four years, unless they are certain of victory. While bringing democracy to the Middle East is a worthy aspiration, in my opinion, one of the things that Hamas' victory in the 'Palestinian elections' and the Iraqi experience should have taught us is that elections cannot be rushed, and require some period of education, as was the case in Germany and Japan in the post-World War II period. That may sound condescending, but I believe that it's grounded in reality.


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