West's Dilemma over Arab Democracy

(BBC News) Hugh Miles - To assume that democracy will make the Middle East look more like the West is to assume that, given the power to choose, Arabs will choose more liberal, secular, peaceful societies than they have now. But there is little evidence to suggest this is true. It seems probable that in many Arab countries Islamist parties hostile to the West's interests would sweep the board. In some places this has already happened. Hizballah, for example, a group regarded as a terrorist organization by the West, has 14 seats in the Lebanese parliament won through completely legitimate democratic means. It even has a minister in the Lebanese cabinet. In May, Hamas made its democratic debut in municipal elections - and did very well. Since then it has enthusiastically stepped up calls for inclusion in the Palestinian democratic process. Some hold that if new leaders come to power democratically, even militant ones, they will soon be moderated by the responsibilities of office. But there is another school of thought. A democratic Saudi Arabia may opt no longer to sell its oil to the West. A democratic Egypt may start to develop nuclear weapons. A democratic Jordan may start a new war with Israel.

2005-09-02 00:00:00

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