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The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East-- if only the Bush hawks understood it.
During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam's alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam's security forces aren't. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved "only through Baghdad," seems further away than ever.
Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism.
Progress may come from a beneficent king, from enlightened mullahs, from a secular military, from a women's movement, from workers returning from years spent as immigrants in Western Europe, from privileged sons of oil barons raised on MTV, or from an increasingly educated urban intelligentsia, such as the nascent one in Iran. But if the events of the last year tell us anything, it is that democracy in the Middle East is unlikely to come at the point of our gun. And Ronald Reagan would have known better than to try.