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Take That Anti-War Liberals!

By Matthew Yglesias

"Take That Anti-War Liberals!"

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Jamie Kirchik offers up what’s got to be the least convincing attack on non-neoconservatives ever:

The Mauritanians’ success–notably, on their own terms and with little foreign intervention–at establishing the basis of a democratic society
in a country that formally outlawed slavery only in 1980, should serve as a challenge to those who claim that democracy is bound to fail in the Arab and Muslim world. Now Iraqis and others can look to the west coast of Africa for an example of Arab liberalism in action.

Where to start? Well, for one thing, it’s always great to see a promising election in a troubled developing country. But, obviously, a lot of troubled developing countries have held promising elections over the decades, and there’s hardly any guarantee here that Mauritania is now on a glide path to liberty. Beyond that, we’re really taking the essentialism of the “Arab liberalism” concept to extreme examples here. Why, exactly, would events in Mauritania prove anything to Iraqis given that the two countries are thousands of miles apart and feature unrelated social conditions?

Also, I don’t know how many times this needs to be repeated, but absolutely nobody opposed the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it’s intrinsically impossible for Arabs or Muslims to hold elections. That Arabs are capable of doing so, and that in all likelihood at some point we’ll see genuine stable democracies in the Arab world, says really nothing at all about the wisdom of efforts to use military coercion to transform totalitarian states into democratic ones.

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