The myth of Islamist democracy.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
July 16 2004 4:43 PM

The Myth of Islamist Democracy

America needn't apologize for its missionary zeal.

(Continued from Page 1)

Chirac is not defending Arabs, only his position as a dear friend and frontman of those Arab rulers who have no wish to reform their governments. Maybe democracy can't be imposed, but democratic and liberal reforms certainly can.

As Slate contributor Michael Young wrote in Lebanon's Daily Star, the Greater Middle East Initiative "saw Arab reform as a Western national security requirement." As Sept. 11 showed, failed societies affect the lives of ordinary Americans. The idea behind the GMEI was that if Arab states functioned better and gave citizens a voice in their own political processes and a chance to advance their economic interests, fewer Arab young men will want to fly planes into U.S. buildings. The idea is no less rational now, and there's no reason to apologize for our missionary zeal, especially when, as Qaradawi complains, Washington-sponsored educational reforms "want to omit all teachings about jihad." That is precisely the point.

Advertisement

Reform-minded Arabs are counting on the United States to drive this agenda. We've heard from so many sources how the Arab world likes Americans, just not U.S. policies, that perhaps we should be wondering what it is Arabs really like about us. Our pop music and action movies? Our willingness to spend lots of money on vacation? The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry?

The policies of the American government are largely derived from the ideas of the American people. And, frankly, there's nothing very special about Americans except for our ideas. If they should happen to clash with the political adventurism of Jacques Chirac or the bloody opinions of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, all the better.

Lee Smith is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.