“Magical realism, Middle East-style”

From the cover story in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine: “War seldom creates democracy; according to a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor, of the 18 regime changes forced by the United States in the 20th century, only 5 resulted in democracy, and in the case of wars fought unilaterally, the number goes down to one–Panama. Democracy takes root from within, over a long period of time, in conditions that have never prevailed in Iraq. For democracy to have a chance there would require a lengthy and careful American commitment to nation-building–which could easily look to Iraqis and other Arabs like colonialism. Nor can we be sure that democracy, in Iraq or elsewhere, will lead to pro-American regimes; it might lead to the opposite. ‘The idea that there’s a small democracy inside every society waiting to be released just isn’t true,’ Carothers says. ‘If we’re pinning our hopes on the idea that this will lead to a democratic change throughout the region, then we’re invading for the wrong reason.’ Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment, adds, ‘”We’ve suffered so much that the only alternative is democracy”–as soon as you say it, you realize there’s a mile between the beginning and end of that sentence.'”

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.