Thursday, July 02, 2009

Juan Cole extravaganza

Juan Cole has stated in the past that he gets most of his work done at night; he must have got very little sleep last night putting together on Informed Comment a large collection of material on a variety of subjects. I will particularly point out this video from Al Jazeera, which is as good for showing downtown Tehran as it is for the latest news from that city. It's always good to check your preconceptions:

Cole also refers us to Elizabeth Thompson's new study on democratization in the Middle East ( pdf text here) which tries to identify the appropriate historical analogies that might help understand the problem. From her introduction:

  • The recent U.S. intervention in Iraq highlights the misuses of history: American leaders employed analogies to World War II to justify the invasion and to predict success in establishing a democratic regime after. These analogies proved to be a poor guide to nation building in the short term. In the long term, they have deeply aggravated U.S. relations with Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world.
  • A more effective use of history would have been to refer to the precedent of World War I, a crucial moment when American policy could have supported indigenous Arab constitutional democracy--but, fatefully, did not.
  • For the new administration, the Arabs' experience of "justice interrupted" after World War I can still be a useful touchstone for promoting democracy in the region.1 This precedent alerts us that foreign intervention can spark a deep-seated and negative political reaction in the postcolonial Arab world and that reform in Arab politics must begin with respect for national sovereignty. It also reminds us that constitutionalism and the desire to participate in the community of international law are enduring values in Arab politics.

Lots more in Cole's extravaganza, including news from Pakistan.


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