Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2005
By: Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark)

Damn it, Dan....we're supposed to be disagreeing, and you go and say that it was al-Jazeera's broadcasts of the Iraqi elections that made the difference? Okay, you win!

You're right that we need to distinguish between whether the invasion of Iraq produces democracy in Iraq and whether it sparks democracy elsewhere in the region. I've mostly been talking about the latter. And there it sounds like we agree that the war changed some incentives but isn't enough to make the difference on its own.

But here our agreement ends: "the Iraqi elections were also a necessary but insufficient condition." That goes too far. I can imagine a lot of other ways that the US could have sparked regional democratization without invading Iraq.

For example: Bush could have declared back in 2002 that the United States would cut off the $2 billion in American finanical aid to Egypt unless Mubarak allowed multi-party Presidential elections under international supervision. That might have been a more efficient way to get those elections, no?

Or go back to Jordan, 1989: cuts in food and fuel subsidies sparked riots, which led then-King Hussein to authorize a democratic opening which included free, fair, competitive elections. Without an American invasion of Iraq in sight!

So I can't go along with you on that one. I'm sticking with "neither necessary nor sufficient, even if it changed some of the incentives."

Interesting argument about how the violence perversely increased the impact of the elections, I'll admit. The peaceful and enthusiastic nature of the elections did surprise a lot of Arabs, at least judging by the commentary I saw on al-Jazeera and read in the Arab press. Of course, a smoother political process without any violence probably would have impressed them even more. Still, not a bad piece of silver lining grabbing.

Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) 2:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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