No one expected Iraq to turn into Denmark. What the Bush administration expected was that by having elections, giving people an opportunity to choose their own leaders, Iraq would become a modern democracy. They were foolish and I predicted that they would fail.
But neither is there any reason to believe that “Muslim Arabs alone of all peoples are destined to live in tyranny forever, unable to sustain any kind of halfway-decent halfway-democratic government” without an interim period of benevolent rule by people who believe in decent democratic government.
The problem with Muslim society is Muslim culture which has several thousand years of embedded experience of tyranny and corruption reinforcing all the actions that militate against the decent democratic government.
The belief that Muslim countries can convert the modern democracies on the European model is as much a pipe dream on the Right as the belief on the Left that Socialism will work if only we give it another try.
Japan is an example of a country with no history of democracy being converted into a decent democracy. Germany – with the failed example of the Weimar period – had no history of being a successful democracy, yet it is today. But before they were “turned loose” as it were, they experienced decades of military occupation following the Second World War. In fact, to this day, there are American military bases in both countries.
Britain left behind it scores of countries they once colonized and then set free, many of which have become stable, decent democracies, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and India.
The big difference between the success of the British Empire and the Allied victory in World War 2 was the imposition of decent rule by a foreign agent who believed in honest, representative government at home and the imposition of good government on a people and culture who were not familiar with any of the basic tenants of a decent representative republic.
The experience in Iraq demonstrates that in a culture ruled by a dictator you will have rampant corruption and – in the case of most Muslim countries – a tribal system in which the first loyalty is to the tribe rather than to the nation. Combine that with unreformed Islam and all you will get from an election is the elevation of the next theocratic dictator whose objective is to gather wealth for himself and his tribe.