From 'Foreign Affairs'
Money quote: "Al Qaeda's leaders distrust democracy, and not just on ideological grounds: they know they could not come to power through free elections. There is no reason to believe that a move toward more democracy in Arab states would deflect them from their course. And there is no reason to believe that they could not recruit followers in more democratic Arab states -- especially if those states continued to have good relations with the United States, made peace with Israel, and generally behaved in ways acceptable to Washington. Al Qaeda objects to the U.S. agenda in the Middle East as much as, if not more than, democracy.
If, as Washington hopes, a democratic Middle East continued to accept a major U.S. role in the region and cooperate with U.S. goals, it is foolish to think that democracy would end Arab anti-Americanism and dry up passive support, funding sources, and recruiting channels for al Qaeda.When it works, liberal democracy is the best form of government. But there is no evidence that it reduces or prevents terrorism.
The fundamental assumption of the Bush administration's push for democracy in the Arab world is seriously flawed."
AR: This of course speaks directly to the assertion that a free Iraq would be a deterrent to terrorism. It wouldn't. But the article only gets things half right. The virtue of toppling dictatorships is in the end, it's own reward. Installing a democracy in place of a brutal regime may not play to US interests in the short run, but having a functioning democracy in the ME to compliment Israel (and Turkey though geographically it is Europe and not ME), would still be a worthy goal of US power to pursue. I still don't fault the goal of toppling Hussein and replacing his autocracy with a more responsive democracy, as it remains a worthy one. What I fault is the shameless lying (WMDs, Plame Affair, 'mushroom clouds', defeating the terrorists there so we don't have to face them here, etc.) when the simplest case was the best. Hussein was evil and deserved to be removed.
Unfortunately, Bush Co. bungled this horribly. They had the right idea, and the worst possible execution. International involvment by coddling rather than slapping the UN members, real coalition building efforts instead of bullying and threats ('old' vs. 'new' Europe anyone?), the committment to send sufficient troops, and a genuine rebuilding plan (rather than a kleptocratic looting of the US treasury by Halliburton etc. under the guise of supporting the troops) would have ameliorated the need for such repulsive spin doctoring.
But you go to war with the president and the cabinet staff you have I guess.