It is hard not to be tantalized by the notion that with one hard blow in Iraq the United States could unleash a tidal wave of democracy in a region long gripped by intransigent autocracy. But although the United States can certainly oust Saddam Hussein and install a less repressive regime, Iraqi democracy would not be soon forthcoming.
The Bush administration's plan for post-invasion Iraq is a blueprint for occupation but not for political reconstruction. Unless the profound difference between occupation and reconstruction is recognized early on, the U.S. will fail to create a stable Iraq, let alone one that serves as a model for other countries. Chaos there will mean the continued threat of terrorism and regional instability.
The rapidly growing field of rule-of-law assistance is operating from a disturbingly thin base of knowledge—with respect to the core rationale of the work, how change in the rule of law occurs, and the real effects of the changes that are produced.
The systematic terrorization of the elite - the arrest of scores of people who have experience in running the government and the economy, the terrorization of their families, the push into exile and silence of dozens of other people has enormous consequences for the capacity of a state as small as Turkmenistan to govern itself.
Since September 11, discussions of political Islam have been distorted by the tendency to identify political Islam with Osama bin Laden, his associates, and organizations involved in violent actions in places such as Chechnya, Kashmir, Algeria, and Egypt. In reality, such violent, militant groups constitute only a small minority among political Islamists.