Democratic Middle East?

(Approx. April, '03)

With our troops now more or less in charge of the Baghdad airport and closing in on the city; with the southern oil fields safely in our hands and the northern oil fields apparently in little danger; and the Brits holding sway in Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, the assessment of our situation in Iraq grows less troubled. It looks like our stated intention all along—ousting the depraved dictator Saddam Hussein and helping Iraq become a prosperous democracy—is, in fact, achievable.

Iraq is supposed to become a beacon, a shining example of the benefits of representative government and free market economics. It's to be the benchmark for the democratization of the entire area. That aim may prove difficult to achieve.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a two-chamber parliament—the 80 members of the lower house elected by the people, but the 40 members of the upper house appointed by the King. Faintly like Great Britain . Egypt technically is a republic with a legislature, but its government and politics are dominated by the so-called National Democratic Party. There are a dozen-or-so splinter parties, but they are straws in the wind. Saudi Arabia , the economic powerhouse of the region, is the linchpin. It is also the most mossback of the lot. The Sa'ud family considers the country to be its personal property. It finally granted a constitution in 1992, based on Islamic Law, but it is essentially toothless for the average non-Sa'ud Arabian since most all of the decrees are Royal ones. There are no political parties. So, if Washington is thinking of Americanizing the Middle East , it has a long row to hoe.