When the Bush administration used the Iraq War as a vehicle to spread democratic change in the Middle East, anger with the United States on foreign policy issues — particularly Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict — and deep suspicion of U.S. intentions put the genuine democracy advocates in the region on the defensive. The outcome has been that, every year since the Iraq War began, polls of Arabs revealed their sense that the Middle East is even less democratic than before.
As we witness the remarkable and inspiring events in both Tunisia and Egypt, one has to wonder whether these events could have taken place even earlier had there not been the diversion of the Iraq War — and whether these upheavals might have swept away Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship without shots being fired from the outside.
Even in Iran, where there is obvious public opposition to the clerical regime, as indicated by the contestation over the 2009 presidential election, one wonders whether the Iranian people might succeed if the regime were robbed of its ability to point fingers at the West.
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