Home / Articles / Democratic Impulses versus Imperial Interests: America’s New Mid-East Conundrum
It has long been an axiom among Western scholars and politicians alike that democracies make the United States’ most stable and viable partners. Since the beginning of the war on terror and now the war on Iraq, this outlook has special resonance with regard to the Middle East, where stagnant autocracies seem to have succeeded only in producing failed economies, decrepit institutions, and a political culture sanctifying suicide bombings and attacks on one’s own people. The emerging consensus contends that if the collection of dictators and mullahs who (mis)govern the region can be removed, the populace will elect responsible governments that will pursue policies harmonious with American interests—including cooperation in the war on terror, acquiescence to regime change in Iraq, and normalization of relations with Israel.1 Certainly democracy—including the liberal, secular variety—can evolve in the Middle East. However, even progressive regimes are unlikely to accede to the injunctions of the Pax Americana. The partisans of the ‘‘democratic thesis’’ must realize that the United States has a stark choice in the Middle East: it can either project its Wilsonian values or protect its strategic interests—it cannot simultaneously do both.