I hate to disagree with Michael Rubin about anything, but I found that Steven Cook op-ed in the Washington Post very unpersuasive.
It is true enough that the push for democracy is not causing the fighting in the Middle East; the latter long predated the former. But the push for democracy is absolutely giving terrorist organizations the ostensible legitimacy of political actors. To the extent they come to control governments as they now do in the quasi-sovereign Palestinian territories and as they may soon do in Lebanon (or even a partitioned Iraq), it gives them considerable privileges and immunities that they would not have as sub-national organizations.
That the terrorist organizations are not themselves democratic — a fact Cook for some reason finds to be of great relevance — is beside the point. However they are internally constituted, they are part of a political process that allows them to come to power — or at least share in power — and thereby to obtain a veneer of legitimacy they would not otherwise have. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are no more democrats than bin Laden is, but they are more of a threat because they control a state (which, of course, purports to have “democratic” elections).
I was also simply stunned by this passage (italics are mine):
Lost in almost all of the commentary about the fighting in Lebanon is the fact that many Lebanese who do not support Hezbollah wish that the organization could be disarmed. Thus the best way of dealing with the Hezbollah problem is not by Israeli arms but by Lebanese public opinion. … Here is where criticism of the Bush administration is warranted. Had Washington not turned its attention away from Lebanon after the dramatic events there a little over a year ago, Lebanon’s fledgling democratic government could have leveraged public opinion to domesticate Hezbollah.
Domesticate Hezbollah? This is the kind of wishful thinking that was supposed to have been laid to rest on 9/11. The Democracy Project, however, has made it fashionable again for reasonably intelligent people to suggest that a ruthless terror organization whose idea of politics is suicide bombing can be reasoned with and civilized by a politcal or legal process – that good wishes and public opinion, rather than military force, are going to induce it to lay down its arms. Dream on.