Thomas L. Freidman has a good op-ed piece in the New York Times that explores why democratizing the Middle East must not be confined to just Iraq. While Friedman is critical of Bush in this piece, his criticisms are valid ones. We cannot simply stop once Saddam Hussein is ousted from power. We have to have the followthrough and foresight to ensure that the rest of the Middle East is no longer a petri dish for terrorism.
That doesn’t mean we should back off Iraq, however. It does mean that we cannot just depose Hussein and be done with it. Nor do I agree with Freidman that we should waver in our support of Israel – they’re by far the most stable democracy in the region. (Turkey does come close.) Until the intifada, most Israelis supported a free and independent Palestinian state and a gradual withdrawl from the West Bank. The Palestinians have ensured that such concessions are no longer acceptable, but if the Palestinians were to stop the hatred and the violence, it is likely that democratic Israel would soon pull out of the West Bank.
What we should be advocating (and what democrats in these countries seek) is a soft landing, notes Larry Diamond, a democracy expert at the Hoover Institution. "That means," he said, "encouraging these regimes to gradually introduce authentic political parties, competitive and fair elections, even if they are initially only at the municipal level, more freedom of the press and greater judicial independence — as a way of laying the groundwork for democracy."
All of which are true points, but before that groundwork can be laid, we have to get rid of fundamentalist Islam by showing that it is an ideology that is a one-way street to destruction. The first step is ensuring that Iraq can’t irrecoverably shift the regional balance of power, and the next step comes in systematically cutting off the heads of terrorist groups, both figuratively and literally. If that means losing the support of our "allies" in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, then that is what must be done.