Democracy in the Middle East

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Jim Hoagland can certainly not be accused of being a shill for the Bush administration. But his Sunday column in the Washington Post contains important evidence that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has promoted the cause of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. The key quote is from the brave champion of democracy in Egypt, Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

"But it is a Middle East in which those who believe in democracy and civil society are finally actors, even though we still face big obstacles," says Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt's battle-scarred democratic activist. Ibrahim originally opposed the invasion of Iraq. But it "has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon's 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives," Ibrahim told me in Washington.

Egypt has allowed nongovernmental organizations to monitor local elections this month, and it is permitting more freedom of expression in a handful of independent newspapers recently established there. "The regime still cheats in elections but less than before," said Ibrahim, to explain his relative optimism.

"Unfrozen the Middle East." Do the Democrats who are trying to delegitimize the decision to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime care anything about that?