by Austin Bay
December 14, 2005
With Iraq's latest trip to the polls, the great revolt
It's not a revolt led by generals with tanks or by millenarian
terrorists, but a democratic revolution led by Iraqi men and women braving
terrorist threats and bombs to vote.
Democratic politics, emerging in Afghanistan, Iraq and
Palestine, are providing an alternative to the afflictions of war, terror
and tyranny. That evil trio has dominated Central Asia and the Middle East,
spilling blood, sapping economic progress and destroying hope.
Afghanistan, with its October 2004 presidential election, can
lay claim to the War on Terror's first democratic electoral success. The
nation, wracked by three decades of war, a Russian invasion and Taliban
theo-fascism, has made astounding progress.
Last week, an ABC News survey of Afghanistan touched on several
of that nation's extensive developmental problems. Six out of 10 households
lack electricity. Fifty percent of Afghan households make less than 500
dollars a year. Afghanis think cultivating opium poppies is justifiable if
farmers lack economic alternatives.
The political opinion half of the poll suggests Afghanis foresee
brighter prospects, however. ABC reported "77 percent of Afghans say their
country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the
vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current
Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led
overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his
part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably."
Remember the voices of defeatism and pessimism in the fall of
2001? They swore that Afghanistan would be a "quagmire," a "Himalayan
Vietnam." Bin Laden was a hero offering jihadist utopia, and his
anti-Western message would sweep the Muslim world. Utter blarney and
balderdash. Military victory in Afghanistan paved the way for political and
However, the dark source of the War on Terror lies in the
dysfunctional political systems of the Arab Muslim world.
For decades, the Arab street (a violent drag controlled by
tyrants, their power enforced by terror) kept Arab reformers in the Arab
alley or the Arab jail. The Arab street also has served as a theater for
choreographed displays of anger. Addressing the real sources of Arab
deprivation and degradation -- autocratic oppression and systemic
corruption -- was forbidden. Arab reformers either shut up, went into exile
or were assassinated
That's no longer the case. The successful, history-shaping,
liberating war in Iraq has begun to "free the street." It isn't free yet.
Theo-fascist and Saddamite bombs strike Baghdad every day. Syrian assassins,
trying to stop Lebanon's democratic movements, are murdering Lebanese
democrats. Reformers know these acts of terror are attempts to "turn back
the clock" and return control of "the street" to the dictators.
Despite the violence, Iraqis and Palestinians are creating
democratic alternatives. The world's free people need to encourage the
Iraqis and Palestinians, not disparage them with defeatist rhetoric and
Iraq's and Palestine's victories, now matter how incremental,
must be recognized and rewarded.
That's because the democratic revolt's biggest payoffs are at
least 10 to 15 years away.
A long haul? Indeed, 15 years is a large chunk of an
individual's lifetime. However, in terms of fundamental political and
economic reformation, it's no eon.
Peace, the rule of law and steady, honest leadership will make
Iraq one of the wealthiest countries in the region. It has water,
agriculture, a source of capital (oil) and a population willing to work.
Palestine lacks Iraq's natural resources, but Palestinians are aggressive
entrepreneurs. Babylon and Bethlehem make Iraq and Palestine prime tourist
What's in it for the United States? Democratic nations police
terror -- they don't promote it. And that amounts to victory in the War on