Regarding your Jan. 28 editorial "Bush's Domino Theory": Before asking whether Americans are ready to support long-term democratization in Iraq, isn't it more important to determine the aspirations and fears of the millions of people the war would directly affect? Since the 18th century, Western powers justified occupying the Middle East in the name of civilization and never considered the "native's" opinion.
In fact reading your piece one is reminded of Jean-Baptiste Fourier in "Description de L'Egypte" describing Napoleon's expedition to Egypt as one that offered "a useful European example to the Orient, and ... [made] the inhabitants' lives more pleasant as well as procure[d] for them all the advantages of a perfected civilization."
Yet we all know the devastation that Napoleon and subsequent European occupiers brought to the Middle East. In light of past history, occupying Iraq to democratize it may be no different. Please ask the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, who according to a recent UN report, could suffer serious injuries or become refugees, if an American invasion is the way to bring democracy to the region.
The Monitor's Jan. 28 editorial about toppling the "dominoes" of autocracies to bring democracy to other nations is right on the mark in its final comment: The US should be prepared for long-term commitment. But it need not be such as President Bush would define for us. Other nations aside, the US will be in Iraq for the long term, whether it be a war and occupation with rebuilding to follow or patient diplomacy, working with other nations, to honestly assess, then neutralize, any threats of Saddam Hussein without need for invasion or attack.
Your analysis that much of the Middle East is in need of democracy, while true, also turns attention to a still larger question: How representative of the people are any of the leading democracies? While leaders in the US and Britain try to convince their people of the need for war, the opposite should be happening. The common people of most nations want no war, but rather improvements to their personal lot in life, their local and national economies, and freedom to live their lives. It seems that only in France and Germany are those nations' leaders listening to their people and resisting the calls to war. Even the US National Security Strategy statements about "freedom, democracy, and free enterprise as a single sustainable model" that is "right and true for every person in every society" could be speaking of this more valid, populist view, but apparently is framed as an excuse for promulgating only that one ideology and suppressing any other.
But if the US could propose the basic ideal of democracy as something to be blended and adapted, in various ways, to the histories and cultures of other peoples to serve the peoples, such as perhaps Turkey is attempting, then democracy might truly be a worthwhile long-term enterprise on the path to world peace.
Stephen W. Osborn
East Lansing, Mich.
Regarding "Bush's Domino Theory": It is a wonderful idea to implant democracy in Iraq, if only it worked. Unfortunately, while the US talks a good game with regard to democracy, nothing is further from the leadership's mind. What the US is looking for, like all imperialistic powers of history, is to install a client government.
Democracy represents a growth stage in the life of a state. It cannot be forcibly implanted no matter how desirous it might seem. Besides, in a democracy, the people might elect a group that might dislike the US even more - like the shiites in Iraq.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.
Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.