Max Sawicky has an an interesting post on democracy and the Middle East. In it he says:
Monarchies have zero legitimacy and ought not to exist, anywhere. The idea that Third World nations need monarchies because they are ‘not ready for self-government’ is racist. It is belied, in this case, by the example of India, a functioning democracy, and by the fact that average incomes in the oil-exporting countires are high enough to support a civil society capable of self-government. Let’s remember that these monarchies exist by the leave of the former colonial powers. Some bloggers purvey the myth that the left evinces some kind of support for these regimes. This is sheer hallucination.
There are quite a few points in this one that deserve some further attention. First of all, I don’t think that significant chunks of the Middle East are ready for self-government. Saudi Arabia and Iran more or less are, as despite the backwards theocracies that rule them the people are embracing personal freedom. The Palestinians most definitely are not. The reason: they care more about killing Jews than they do about themselves. They’ve had years and years to develop real democratic institutions and build infrastructure. They could have turned Gaza City into the Hong Kong of the Middle East if they’d devoted the kind of resources they’ve devoted towards jihad. Until they accept the presence of Israel and learn to live and trade with their neighbors, they will remain in a state of tyranny. (Nor do I think this is a racist assumption. There are Palestinians who are moderate, open, and live and work side by side with Israelis. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones in leadership positions, and nor are they likely to be until the terorists either are thrown out or eliminated.)
As for the idea of monarchies, I’m a pragmatist. If the net benefit to the people of the state is greatest with a ruler who is less than democratic, that’s something that I can live with. Once the state has reached a certain level of development, a changeover to democracy will become inevitable. This helps explain why the Iranian theocracy has fallen – the influence of Western media has helped fuel that nation’s desire for freedom. A similar pattern is emerging in Saudi Arabia as well
The real problem with democracy in the Middle East, so yearned for in the U.S., is that left to their own devices, Arab and Muslim electorates would probably support policies contrary to those of the U.S., especially with regard to Israel and Palestine. The true history of Arab regimes’ failure (of will and commitment, as well as of effectiveness) to support Palestine is a profound affront to any knowledgeable Arab nationalist or progressive.
Unfortunately, "supporting the Palestinians" is equated to mean "slaughter the Jews" for most of the Arab world. If peaceful living was all that was desired, that would be perfectly fine. If that were really the goal, then there would be an independent Palestinian state by now. However, the real goal of most of the Arab world isn’t coexistence, it’s genocide. Until those attitudes are reversed, the Arab world cannot go much further. Israel has become a symbol of Arab impotence for much of the Arab world. A small country that has prospered while they have not. Instead of emulating the driving force of that success – Israeli’s democracy and industry, the Arab world decided to just destroy Israel. Until the Arab world truly supports the Palestinians by calming the intifada rather than fanning the flames and hoping that they weaken the Israelis enough for them to finish them off, the situation will not substantially improve, and democracy will not be possible.