Democracy in the Middle East

I don't have time right now to write a full post, but I want to direct your attention to these three very good pieces on the subject of democracy.

ITM: A place for democracy in the Middle East?
If we go back in time to the latest colonial era we’d see that the intellectual environment at that time was far more developed than at the later stages of independence and national governments, we’d see that freedom of press and expression was fairly better than what we had at later times and even religious parties we’re going through a phase of reevaluating their history and ideologies; at that time there were many religious reformists who were calling for rereading our history and were searching for dialogue channels with the western civilization. Even the Muslim Brotherhood-to which most current Islamic parties belong-we’re more ready to talk, discuss and reform than they are now and at that time, this was considered a leap on the road of reforming the religious thinking.

But the independence wave that came later mostly through military coups allowed the pan-Arab nationalists to take over and impose their point of view on the peoples; they took away freedoms of speech and though and oppressed everyone that didn’t follow their ideology. The people found themselves stuck with one leader, one party and one opinion to follow while all kinds of opposition were either eliminated or severely marginalized.

This was at least the case in Iraq for decades and the same applied to the rest of the neighborhood more or less.

In Iraq were not allowed group or meet for any reason outside the approval of the party and it was officially considered a crime for a number of people to gather and talk politics, the charge that I remember too well was that “they are grouping” and that was enough for conviction. That’s why each and every meeting required the approval of the government before it could be held.
However there was one place that the government couldn’t stop people from meeting at, that was the mosque.

Michael Ledeen: Choosing Tyranny
When people say, as they often do, with a glint of ethnic or cultural superiority in their angry eyes, that Arabs or Africans or Persians or Turks just aren't "ready" for democracy, that such people prefer tyrants, or that they have no history of democracy and are hence incapable of it, or they have no middle class, without which no stable democracy can exist, or they believe in Islam, which brooks no democracy, I try to remind them that some of the worst tyrannies came from highly cultured Christian countries with glorious democratic and humanistic traditions.

Neo: Liberal vs. Illiberal Democracy
It's true that the US has encouraged the spread of democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. But it's a major oversimplification to imagine that America--or, for that matter, those dread neocons--think democracy by itself is any sort of answer to anything at all, except a way to give Jimmy Carter some more business in his old age.

To anyone who may have misunderstood, I declare here and now that democracy, by itself, is not "the answer." It is, however, part of the answer.

A more complete "answer" would go something like this: it's democracy, coupled with protection of human and civil rights (including those of minorities and woman), and widespread education that avoids indoctrination in mindless hatred. The goal is liberal democracy.