- The problem with Saudi Arabia is not that it has too little democracy. It's that it has too much. The ruling family is so insecure, it feels it has to consult every faction, tribe and senior cleric before making any decision. This makes Saudi Arabia a very strange autocracy: it's a country where one man makes no decisions.
But perhaps, by quoting him out of context like this, I'm missing the subtle nuance of his argument, which may have simply fallen victim to his ongoing struggle with the English language. It could be that Friedman does favor democracy after all -- just the kind of democracy that does whatever happens to be convenient for the United States military and its favorite contractors, as opposed to that other kind of democracy that follows the wacky policy of doing what its citizens want.
And if so, he's in harmony with the policy we seem to be following in bringing democracy to Iraq -- witness, for example, the elections in Kirkkuk, where forces under our local satrap, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, stacked the deck by holding a city council election among only carefully selected dignitaries, and then arresting Arab and Turkmen delegates when they decided, on reflection, that they hadn't been selective enough, to the general dissatisfaction of all except the Kurds (who wound up with their own six seats on the council, divided in advance by ethnic group, and with five out of six of the "independant" seats which were supposed to represent city functionaries).
So that's local democracy. On a national scale,
- In a "leadership council" meeting on Saturday night, the
main Iraqi political groups agreed to submit a formal protest to the
occupation authorities over the delay in putting an Iraqi government
[US administrator] Mr. Bremer has spoken about organizing a national conference in July to create an interim Iraqi administration that would be subservient to his authority. Still, no concrete arrangements have been made, the Iraqi political groups said.
They also decided to send delegations to Washington and London to press the case for organizing elections here as soon as possible.
They don't understand that the American occupation forces simply have other priorities -- there are just so many contracts to be awarded to closely held, politically connected American corporations. As to elections -- well, once there's nothing left to decide, we'll get around to it.
And in the meantime, well, some uppity local constituencies are just going to have to take their lumps. Like women, the faction that comprises more than half the population, who are seeing their rights sharply curtailed by the Shiite clerics who have filled the power vacuum that our non-governance has created in the south. Those guys know how to make a decision. Tom Friedman, who admits to a "soft spot" for Saudi crown prince Abdullah (de facto head of that theocratic regime), should be pleased.