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Democratic Mirage in the Middle East

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The increasingly popular idea in Washington that the United States, by toppling Saddam Hussein, can rapidly democratize Iraq and unleash a democratic tsunami in the Middle East is a dangerous fantasy. The U.S. record of building democracy after invading other countries is mixed at best and the Bush administration's commitment to a massive reconstruction effort in Iraq is doubtful. The repercussions of an intervention in Iraq will be as likely to complicate the spread of democracy in the Middle East as promote it. The United States has an important role to play in fostering democracy in the region, but the task will be slow and difficult given the unpromising terrain and lack of U.S. leverage over key governments.