Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Arab World's First Democracy

Yet another wannabe expert offhandedly lists the U.S.-backed government in Iraq as the 'first' democracy in the Arab world. This simply isn't true. Sure, you can discount Jordan, where the elected Parliament still functions under the king's sovereignty, or Palestine, which sometimes has open elections but few functioning institutions.

Lebanon, however, had a robust democratic system from 1943 to 1975, when civil war broke out, and democracy has increasingly been restored since 1990. Certainly, it's not a perfect system - Hezbollah controls almost half the country, foreign governments exercise outsize influence - but it's more representative, participatory, and much longer-lasting than Iraq's.

So can American politicians and commentators please debate whether Iraq will become the Arab world's second democracy? Or perhaps take some humility from their ignorance of the region they presume to dominate?

Global Review is not, of course, the first publication to note this error - the WSJ did in 2006. But since the offending piece today is from a WSJ columnist, the lesson obviously didn't take.

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