Democracy may never flourish in Arab cultures

In her Aug. 30 Opinion piece, "How to bridge two views of success in Iraq," Janessa Gans is wrong in assuming that by bringing the Iraqi view and the American view closer, the Iraqi problem will be solved. The failure in Iraq is an Iraqi problem. Sunnis vs. Shiites, Kurds vs. Arabs, secular vs. religious ideologies are Iraqi facts and not US imports.

Moreover, the rules of democracy are that groups cannot be winners or losers, but only "half winners" and "half losers." Compromise and recognition of the other as different and equal are alien to Arab culture, and it is unlikely that these imported cultural traits will take root in the Arab political culture.

Changes have affected even former communist countries, such as the Soviet Union. However, Arab states remain authoritarian, where laws are arbitrary and human rights are nonexistent. And instead of the population rising to the occasion and calling for democratic reforms, the people are blaming their saviors for their misfortunes. As long as Arab and Muslim populations refuse to embrace modernity and engage in an "orange revolution" against their despot leaders, then the probability of a democratic Iraq and Middle East will remain an illusive dream.
Zerougui Abdelkader
Adjunct professor, American University

Culpable parties in the Lebanon war

From among your balanced and nonpartisan editorials, the Aug. 28 editorial, "The need after the Lebanon war," was different. It had a litany of criticism of, advice for, and demands on Lebanon, Hizbullah, Syria, Iran, and the international community to preserve and sustain peace in the Middle East. What I missed was any sort of criticism of Israel for the horrendous loss of life and property, and of its obligation to immediately lift the sea and air blockade, to release the Muslim prisoners, and to negotiate territorial adjustments. For comparison, I refer your readers to your well-balanced Aug. 30 editorial, "The value of mea culpas in the Middle East."
Ifat A. Shah

Regarding your Aug. 30 editorial, "The value of mea culpas in the Middle East": The statement by Kofi Annan that he will appoint a mediator for Israel and Hizbullah makes UN Resolution 1701 (similar to 1559) to be not worth the paper it is written on. It is the duty of Lebanon to turn over the two captured Israeli soldiers without preconditions under the terms of the agreement. Instead, if the past is any indication, we shall find that Israel is forced to disgorge hundreds of prisoners, not for the two soldiers, but for dubious information as to whether they are still alive. If Lebanon cannot get Hizbullah to meet the terms of 1701, then any further negotiations will be fruitless and would only reward terror.
Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md.

Obama should focus on US

Regarding the Sept. 1 article, "Senator Obama puts spotlight back on Africa": Senator Obama's excursion to Africa on the taxpayers' dollars is nothing new. As a Democrat, I am so disappointed in the political aspect of these trips. As an American city dweller seeing the pressing and acute problems at home, I wish Mr. Obama would focus his energies here and let Europeans deal with the devastation of their imperialism. The HIV virus is rampant in the US. Obama should focus his attention on his country; otherwise he risks losing any inroads he has made in the Democratic establishment. Jessie Jackson is a great orator like Obama but has floundered by pursuing a narrow agenda. If he's not building a house for Habitat for Humanity in Africa, like Jimmy Carter does, then Obama is just being political, and I think that's appalling.
James Dillinger

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