. . . Friday July 14, 2006

The Boy Who Cried Democracy

From Tom Friedman:

The world needs to understand what is going on here: the little flowers of democracy that were planted in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories are being crushed by the boots of Syrian-backed Islamist militias who are desperate to keep real democracy from taking hold in this region and Iranian-backed Islamist militias desperate to keep modernism from taking hold.

It may be the skeptics are right: maybe democracy, while it is the most powerful form of legitimate government, simply can’t be implemented everywhere. It certainly is never going to work in the Arab-Muslim world if the U.S. and Britain are alone in pushing it in Iraq, if Europe dithers on the fence, if the moderate Arabs cannot come together and make a fist, and if Islamist parties are allowed to sit in governments and be treated with respect — while maintaining private armies.

The whole democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is at stake here, and right now it’s going up in smoke.

There is another element at work here as well. It is the effort by Iranian leaders (Holocaust deniers, nuclear weapon seekers, and general assholes) to taunt the U.S. They know that the U.S. is stretched thin in terms of military options and even thinner when it comes to an ability to have a defined strategy and execute on that strategy.

So Iran is sending their lackeys to murder in Iraq, to bomb in Northern Israel and to kidnap in Gaza. And just beneath the surface of these actions is a question for the cowboys out West. “What are you going to do about it?”

Think about it. Bush and Blair set out to remake the Middle East to give some stability to the oil rich region. We’ve now not only got a lot less stability, but Bush and Blair are, at least as of this moment, not even close to having significant control of the historical events taking place on the ground.

On the other hand, Iran may have overplayed its hand. The lack of outrage among many Arab governments is loud and clear. Many see this moment as a key opportunity to sit back and let Israel put the thumb on Hezbollah and Hamas – both of which are seen as threats to existing regimes and an unwelcome extension of Iran’s manipulation of regional events.

Even for the Middle East, these are complicated times.

Concentration is important!