The increasingly popular idea in Washington that the United States, by toppling Saddam Hussein, can rapidly democratize Iraq and unleash a democratic tsunami in the Middle East is a dangerous fantasy. The U.S. record of building democracy after invading other countries is mixed at best and the Bush administration's commitment to a massive reconstruction effort in Iraq is doubtful. The repercussions of an intervention in Iraq will be as likely to complicate the spread of democracy in the Middle East as promote it. The United States has an important role to play in fostering democracy in the region, but the task will be slow and difficult given the unpromising terrain and lack of U.S. leverage over key governments.

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About the Authors
Marina Ottaway
, senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment, is the author or editor of more than ten books on comparative politics including the forthcoming Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semiauthoritarianism (Carnegie Endowment, January 2003). She is also the coauthor of Rebuilding Afghanistan: Fantasy versus Reality (Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief No. 12)
Thomas Carothers directs Carnegie's Democracy and Rule of Law Project and is a leading specialist on democracy promotion. He is the author of several books and many articles on the subject including Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (Carnegie Endowment, 1999).
Amy Hawthorne is associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project and a specialist in Arab politics. She is the author of a forthcoming monograph on U.S. democracy promotion in the Middle East.
Dan Brumberg is visiting scholar in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project and associate professor of government at Georgetown University. He has written widely on political and social change in the Middle East including Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran (University of Chicago, 2001).