“In light of the recent violence in the Middle East,” President Bush said recently, “some are questioning whether democracy can take root in the region. I believe that the Iraqi people are showing us their answer.”
But privately, White House officials are wondering if the “free and democratic Iraq” Bush envisions is still possible amid continued sectarian violence. The New York Times reports today that officials are now “considering alternatives other than democracy” for Iraq:
[S]ome outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.
“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”
Bush has rationalized the Iraq war by arguing “a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East” would transform the region and be remembered as a “watershed event in the global democratic revolution.”
Now, even the administration admits this rosy scenario is becoming less likely by the day.
UPDATE: Rich Lowry reports that an administration official tells him: “I checked again today and no one, repeat no one, here is talking about ‘alternatives to democracy.'”