Daniel Henninger's Friday column in Opinion Journal offers some measured perspective on Iraq and the push for democracy there. I was struck by these lines:
"Most of those stating their doubts in public about democracy in Mesopotamia are conservatives who supported the war itself but have come to believe that Middle Eastern history, culture, religion and an unseemly fascination with explosives and blood feuds makes self-government unlikely. Most liberals, meanwhile, concluded before the war that Iraqi democracy was a neoconservative plot and so are pretty much sitting out this turn in history."
I guess I am one of those conservatives who really wonders if democracy can take root among people with the Iraqis' cultural baggage. I get more hopeful when thinkers like Henninger remind me that success in the Iraqi democracy effort realy matters:
"The Middle East and North Africa, with 326 million people, is projected to grow to 649 million by 2050. It would be good for our national security if one large nation in that region became a normal place. We should be selfish in promoting normalcy for Iraq and the Middle East. At its most basic, a normal political country has at least two competitive political parties and holds periodic elections. Why? So that its citizens will spend their political energies arguing with each other, rather than sitting in local cafes trying to figure out who to blame for their lot and who to kill.
"Politics alone isn't normal life. We need to give self-governing Iraqis (and Afghans, also planning elections) full entree to the global trading system so that their young men can do what normal 20-year-olds have always done: Get out of bed in the morning, spend eight hours working at a real job and go home to a family, TV and soccer with their children. He still might think Allah is the best and the world full of infidels; but it's just a thought, not a jihad. Life goes on."
He goes on to compare Iraq with other countries, like Russia, whose path to greater democracy has been in many ways far bumpier than even Iraq's, so far. The entire column is worth reading as we contemplate those folks who, 227 years ago, said:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."