If you haven't read the Washington Post's Sunday editorial "The Case for Democracy," by all means do.
A couple of interesting points. The Post, as so many of Bush's critics do, lists what it considers his administration's mistakes in Iraqa list a little longer than I would make. But then the Post notes the following: "But even war planners far more diligent and serious than this administration's will get things wrongan assumption that should be built into any prewar calculation." Well, yes. Anyone who reads the history of wars will find that it is a history of one mistake, miscalculation, surprise after another. Things seldom go as planned. Franklin Roosevelt, in my view, was our greatest wartime commander in chief. His selection of key military leaders, getting the right person for the right job, was uncannily good. Yet mistakes and blunders were many and sometimes grievous. If Roosevelt couldn't get everything right, and he certainly couldn't, nobody can.
Here's another great insight. "But other nations progress without that head start [in forging democracy that some Central European nations had]. Everyone would acknowledge that it's difficult; that culture, history, and ethnic politics matter; that totalitarian habits take decades to recover from. But it's hard to look around the world to democracies in South Korea, India, South Africa, El Salvador, and Indonesia and come up with rules to predict where democracy can succeed and where it can't." This is akin to, but not exactly the same as, George W. Bush's frequent statements that all people thirst for democracy. The Post isn't so sure of that. But it also isn't sure that you can predict with accuracy which nations will and which won't. Regional experts, far more versed in the history and culture of their areas of specialization than we generalists can ever be, gave plausible explanations of why East Asia, South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia were not ready for democracy. But now we have on the other side of the argument the imperfect but nonetheless encouraging examples that the Post cites. If we should not be too sure about our optimism, we should not be too sure of our pessimism, either.
Finally, after admitting that elections are by no means a panacea, the Post concludes with this paragraph. "But without elections, or the prospect of elections without some measure of accountability to the people what will induce a dictator to allow civil society to grow? The 'realists' need to answer that question, too." To put it another way: In the post-September 11 world, is realism realistic?