Andy, the claim is not that democracy is perfect; it’s that it’s the least bad of the available systems. Never mind electing Hamas, the Germans loved Hitler, the Italians adored Mussolini, and at that time the Germans and Italians were rightly admired as cultured, sophisticated, artistic, philosophical…and advanced. So yes, democracy fails. And it often fails in favor of tyranny. The Greeks and Romans used to talk about cycles of politics, generally running from tyranny to autocracy to democracy to mobocracy to tyranny and round and round.
We know this. We accept this. As we accept that if some of the peoples of the Middle East were free to choose their leaders, they might well choose an Osama of their own.
But freedom is still the best bet. You want to beat Iran? Get freedom for the Iranians, they made a terrible mistake in 1979 and supported revolution by ayatollah Khomeini, and they voted for him and for the Islamic Republic. Now they know better, and if they get a chance they will not vote in another tyranny. The Syrians never had a choice, but there is every reason to believe they would go for democracy too.
And don’t you agree that the Lebanese failure is not a failure of democracy but a failure of the West to properly support Lebanese democracy? For democracy to work you need strong institutions, not just elections, and we needed to insist that the Syrians get out and stay out, as we need to insist right now that Hizbollah be expelled en toto from Lebanon, and demilitarized in Syria as well.Support for strong democratic states requires seriousness.
It’s wrong to condemn freedom just by saying that some people will do the wrong thing with it. We knew that, it happens everywhere. On balance, if the Middle East were entirely free (I know it’s a wacko hypothesis, but still…) it would be a much better place, because the contagion of democracy from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait (the bare minimum) would be enormous, and the tyrants would have tough going.
So take it easy on the poor democrats, please.