"... democracy yields peace and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side by side. So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy." So says my president at his news conference yesterday. He continues to beat the drum that by bringing democracy to the Middle East, he will eliminate terrorism.
Quite coincidentally (since I'm several issues behind), I've just finished reading an article in Foreign Affairs pointing out that, on the basis of the actual evidence, "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or a reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type." The overwhelming victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election neatly underscores that point.
More striking than this rather unremarkable conclusion, however, is some of the polling data that the article presents on public opinion in the Middle East. While there is general support for the notion of democracy, and a general belief that it can work in the Middle East, there is intense dislike of US policies. The US is viewed most favorably in Lebanon, where 32 percent of respondents claimed to have a somewhat favorable or very favorable attitude toward the United States. In Saudi Arabia, that response was 4 percent. Four percent! No wonder we're not so enthusiastic about promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia -- any democractically elected government there would be actively hostile to US interests.
W and his crew are so filled with righteousness that they've never been willing to look deeply into the causes of the intense dislike around the world for the US, and they blithely ignore the fact that in the past five years they have intensified that dislike manyfold. As long as W continues on his present course (and I see no reason whatsoever to think that he will change one bit), he will continue to inflame those that hate the US. But then, he's not really a "cause and effect" kinda guy -- I'm sure he sees himself as more of a "vision" kind of guy. Those pesky facts musn't be allowed to get in the way.