Did you see the television coverage of Yasser Arafat's funeral -- riot as mourning, gunfire as liturgy? Is it reasonable to expect that in the Jan. 9 elections to choose Arafat's successor, the Palestinian polity will select what the president called (June 24, 2002) a necessary condition for progress -- leadership "not compromised by terror"?
The president says it is "cultural condescension" to question "whether this country, or that people, or this group, are 'ready' for democracy." Condescending, perhaps, but is it realistic? Tony Blair says it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture." Are there cultural prerequisites for free polities? Does Iraq have them? Do the Palestinian people, after a decade of saturation propaganda inciting terrorism and anti-Semitism? Does the United States know how to transplant those prerequisites?
If you can believe it, it gets tougher from there.