And that's what we are witnessing before our eyes. Indeed, throughout the 20th century even the worst dictatorships and totalitarian regimes insisted that they were "real" democracies. The Soviet Union swore up and down that it was a "republic" offering a true "peoples' democracy." From Nazi Germany to North Korea, men who ruled with jackboots and billy clubs, nonetheless felt compelled to use the language of democracy.
Saddam Hussein thought holding a sham national election would save his credibility. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a man who knows more about the proper allocation of vowels in first names than he does about democracy, has endlessly harangued America about how to create a "legitimate" democratic government in Iraq. Just this month, Libyan dictator and all-around laugh-riot Muammar Qaddafi told Al-Jazeera that America had a "shameful form of government" and that we need a real democracy. "The U.S. doesn't have a regime worth imitating. If any regime is worth imitating, it is a Libyan regime. A republic of the masses in which men and women govern themselves. A direct, popular democracy."
When dictators, theocratic potentates and totalitarians cannot even muster a vocabulary to compete with democracy, you know that democracy has won the battle of ideas.
Obviously, there will be setbacks. History moves tectonically, and, as the tsunami taught us, such processes can be less than smooth. Islamic fundamentalism, for example, rejects democracy for much the same reason - to use Bill Buckley's phrase - that baloney rejects the grinder. But does anyone doubt the ultimate conclusion of such a conflict? The jihadists aren't really competing with democracy - they're opposing it the way barbarians have always opposed modernity and civilization. They can't cope with it otherwise.
The expansive, decent version of democracy will come to the Middle East and the rest of the world - eventually. If the Iraqi elections fail, even their failure will reinforce the desire for successful elections. Many complain that in Iraq the process is too bloody or too expensive, but these critics are determined to make the perfect the enemy of the good. At the end of the tunnel we, or our children, will look back on America's role as the catalyst for democracy, and we'll be proud we were on the right side of history and its end.
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