Friday, March 11, 2005

Democracy's Dilemmas must read editorial from The Nation

If you caught Katrina vanden Heuvel on The Majority Report last night, you learned that an important editorial was being posted at The Nation's web site (and will be in the latest issue). It's entitled "Democracy's Dilemmas" and it's a must read. For those tired of the ahistorical "news analysis" by the likes of the Time's Toad Purdum and hype that overlooks reality, you'll enjoy enjoy this editorial from The Nation.

Here are the first three paragraphs, but use the link to read the entire thing:

In what is being called the "cedar revolution," demonstrators in Beirut brought down the pro-Syrian government at the end of February and forced Damascus to announce the withdrawal of its 14,000 troops from Lebanon. This and other developments of recent weeks--municipal elections in Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement of plans for competitive elections--lent support to the view that there is a new democratic opening in the Middle East. This is indeed welcome news. But it would be wrong to ignore the complexities of the situation, especially in Lebanon (where the prime minister who had just resigned was set to be reappointed) or to credit the Bush Administration's war on Iraq for the encouraging signs, as Beltway triumphalists are doing.
Pressure for elections and democratic reform has been building in many Arab societies for more than a decade. Just a few years after the low point reached in 1991, when elections were effectively canceled in Algeria, the cause of democratic reform got a boost in 1996 with the first Palestinian Authority elections in the occupied territories and with the Iranian elections the following year, which brought a reformer to power. Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco followed suit with parliamentary elections of varying degrees of openness. In Egypt and other Arab countries, democratic reform has become the major concern of a new generation of activists.
Official Washington was so preoccupied with Iraq and Islamist extremism during much of this period that it missed the signs of stirrings and lent them very little, if any, support. Then, too, many activists avoided any identification with Washington, fearing it would compromise their legitimacy. Even today, they doubt the Bush Administration's sincerity in its new emphasis on freedom and democracy, believing it may be a stalking-horse for further US attacks on any government deemed a potential threat to Israel.