After experiencing just about every form of government possible - monarchy, dictatorship, communism, warlordism and religious rule - the Afghan people are embracing democracy.
They've proven it by registering to vote in droves, even as Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents try to violently disrupt the process. Nine out of 10 eligible Afghans have signed up to cast ballots for their first direct presidential election in October. That's 8.7 million people siding with democracy, 41 percent of them women.
Last week, interim President Hamid Karzai also took a stand for rule of law. He decided to campaign without a powerful warlord, Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, as his running mate.
Mr. Karzai risked violent reprisal from the defense minister's private militia. But to have kept Mr. Fahim on the ticket would have gone against Karzai's promise to disarm the warlords, who protect the drug trade.
Still, great challenges to the election loom. Security remains a critical issue. Citizens need to be educated about such basics as voting secrecy. And it's not clear that the nearly two dozen Karzai opponents will get a fair shot at the dominant candidate. But the desire for democracy clearly runs deep, and that is half the battle.