Courtesy Reuters

Will Democracy in the Middle East Make Us Safer?

Aiming High


In "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?" (September/October 2005), Gregory Gause posits a one-dimensional solution to a multidimensional problem. Unfortunately, he also incorrectly claims that President George W. Bush has done the same, in believing that promoting democracy can alone defeat terrorism. Gause writes, "The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism."

The administration, of course, has never prescribed democracy as the single-dose remedy to the terrorist disease. On the contrary, the president's 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism features a broad range of antiterrorist measures. The strategy also declares essential the coordinated deployment of all the instruments of statecraft, at home and abroad. President Bush underscored this during his September 15, 2005, speech to world leaders at the UN in New York. He spoke about confronting threats directly, engaging the enemy, disrupting terrorist networks, denying enemies safe haven, building international coalitions, forging treaties that reinforce the rule of law, denying the enemy weapons of mass destruction, and changing the conditions that terrorists exploit.

Such conditions include, among others, a shifting mix of international geopolitics, economics, religion, ideology, ignorance, cultural stress, and intolerant political systems that offer little room for political expression or personal freedom. This environment enables terrorist leaders to advance their own agenda, to exert influence, to recruit, and to escalate local conflicts. Tyranny does afford our terrorist enemies an advantage.

Terrorism-conducive conditions can converge in specific geographic areas, often in illiberal societies and lawless or nondemocratic states, where the enemy can establish safe haven. Tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, illiberal and undergoverned by legitimate state authority, provide al Qaeda leaders such refuge. Illiberal and ambitious Iran sponsors international terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, as proxy forces and hinders cooperation within

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