Reuel Marc Gerecht has a must-read piece in the Weekly Standard on the political progress in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the broader question of the extent to which democracy is compatible with Islam in its current state. Here’s his concluding paragraph (but please read the whole thing).
Iraq and Afghanistan as liberal beacons in the region never really made much sense; as democracies in which devout Muslims wrestle through difficult questions about the proper relationship between God and man, they can have much more impact in the Middle East, where religion is like oxygen. Afghanistan and Iraq are at present the Muslim world’s two most important democratic laboratories. They are not causes for despair. On the contrary, for devout Muslims who are trying to introduce concepts of popular sovereignty into political philosophy, both nations are-and the word is used correctly-progressive. This may be hard for many secularized or disbelieving Westerners and Middle Easterners to swallow-“We have gone to war for this?”-but in the context of Middle Eastern history, we should be both hopeful and proud. The real question for us now is the one posed to me in Kabul by an Italian officer, who despite his soft manner had the martial spirit of a U.S. Marine: “Will the United States run? If you do, we all will.”