Now I take the point that “democracy” - as in elections - isn’t every thing. In the development of successful nations, the universal franchise is usually the last piece of the puzzle, as it was in Britain. Anyone can hold an election: Mugabe did; so did Charles Taylor, the recently retired Psycho-for-Life of Liberia. The world’s thugocracies have got rather skilled at being just democratic enough to pass muster with Jimmy Carter and the international observers: they kill a ton of people, put it on hold for six weeks and then, when the UN monitors have moved on, pick up their machetes and resume business as usual.
I prefer to speak of “liberty” or, as Bush says, “freedom”, or, as neither of us is quite bold enough to put it, capitalism - free market, property rights, law of contract, etc. That’s why Hong Kong is freer than Liberia, if less “democratic”. If I had six or seven centuries to work on things, I wouldn’t do it this way in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the “war on terror” is more accurately a race against time - to unwreck the Middle East before its toxins wreck South Asia, West Africa, and eventually Europe. The doom-mongers can mock Bush all they want. But they’re spending so much time doing so, they’ve left themselves woefully uninformed on some of the fascinating subtleties of Iraqi and Afghan politics that his Administration turns out to have been rather canny about.