It May Take Decades to Loosen the Rulers' Iron Grip

(International Herald Tribune) Aaron David Miller - What are the chances of quick and steady progress toward real political change in authoritarian and centralized Arab regimes? It would be nice to hope that the Palestinian and Iraqi models will serve as launching pads for rising democracies; but for the foreseeable future, the odds are against it. Arabs may be excited and fascinated by political ferment in Iraq; but they are also alarmed by the absence of public order, the cacophony of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish voices, and the seemingly irrepressible and violent insurgency. Despite genuine desire among millions of Arabs for greater openness, there will be no rush toward democracy. Nor should we be surprised by the formidable capacity of these authoritarian regimes to quash meaningful reform. Short of invading another Arab country (and that's not a recommendation), what can the U.S. do to promote real progress toward democracy? Not much that will produce quick or significant change. This is a long movie. Above all, let's keep our expectations low and realistic. The democratic club is a small one - only a couple of dozen countries have managed to remain democracies over the past half-century.

2005-03-25 00:00:00

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