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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Good Advice on Middle-East Revolution


It's hard not to feel giddy, watching the dominoes fall. In Lebanon, 'people power' forced the resignation Monday of Syria's puppet government; in Egypt, the Pharaonic Hosni Mubarak agreed Saturday to allow other candidates to challenge his presidency for life; in Iraq, the momentum of January's elections is still propelling the nation forward, despite bickering politicians and brutal suicide bombers. But catastrophic change is dangerous, even when it's bringing down a system people detest. This is not a time for U.S. triumphalism, or for gloating and lecturing to the Arabs. That kind of arrogance got us into trouble in Iraq during the first year of occupation. It was only when Iraqis began to take control of their own destinies that this project began to go right. The same rule holds for Lebanon, Egypt and the rest. America can help by keeping on the pressure, but it's their revolution.
Even with all the encouraging signs the Arab world certainly isn't going to become a clone of America, or any other democracy soon, and probably not at all. It will take time for their institutions to adapt to democracy, and they will also most likely adapt democracy to their institutions. This is both expected and desirable. We should of course offer encouragement and advice, and stick to a strong support of basic freedoms and rights, but the details are for the citizens of those nations to work out. If we believe in the principle of democracy, we must trust the people.


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