OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: "The U.S. has tried for decades to resolve the Israeli-Arab problem, and the results have been either meager (peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan) or execrable (a terrorist regime in the Palestinian Authority). Why is it 'realistic' to think that more of the same will magically transform the region now?

Self-evidently it is not. In truth, the so-called realists make two unrealistic assumptions. The first is unrealistic even by their own lights: that Arab nations, far from being concerned only with their own interests, have a sentimental attachment to the Palestinian cause.

The second goes to a fundamental problem with realism: a failure to distinguish between nations and regimes. It's obvious that it would be in the interest of Arab nations--especially the currently nonexistent Palestinian one--to coexist peacefully with Israel. But the regimes that rule those nations are concerned above all with self-preservation. Stirring up hatred against an external enemy--the Jews--serves the purpose of diverting popular attention from the regimes' depredations.

This is why democracy matters. Democratic regimes are far from perfect, but by providing for popular accountability, they align the interests of the regime with the interests of the nation better than any other system that has been devised. In a world of democracies, realism would be a lot more realistic."