Monday, March 21, 2005

George Bush: Middle East Democracy's Inspiration?

Over at, Juan Cole argues that the Jan. 30th elections played no part in the wafting scent of democratization filling the Middle East. Cole makes a good argument that functions as a great mini contemporary Middle Eastern history lesson, but, like those triumphalists on the neoconservative side, Cole is too absolutist when he writes:
The argument for change through inspiration has little evidence to underpin it. The changes in the region cited as dividends of the Bush Iraq policy are either chimeras or unconnected to Iraq.
Reuel Marc Gerecht provided some anecdotal evidence in this Weekly Standard article, writing that the Lebanese youth can't stop saying "Ju-Ju,' an affectionate Arabic take on George."Yet it is important to quote Cole's next sentence as well:
And the Bush administration has shown no signs that it will push for democracy in countries where freedom of choice would lead to outcomes unfavorable to U.S. interests.
Cole's right, can anyone say Azerbaijan?

If not, here's a link to an excellent article from Mother Jones that's a perfect riposte to anyone truly believing Bush has "turned the corner" on providing succor to Arab authoritarian regimes.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that some Arabs can't believe Bush is a democratic catalyst. Perception and reality contradict each other all the time. What matters is that the Middle East democratizes while the left rationally and coolly argues that this was never Bush's intention.