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This collection of essays edited by Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, and
Daniel Brumberg, is one that everyone interested in future of the Middle East should read carefully. All of the essays here, in one way or another,
seek to address that most perplexing of questions: Why has the Middle East
so stubbornly resisted the sweeping reach of democracy? The answers presented
are sometimes illuminating and, even in the weaker sections, almost
always thought provoking.
All of the authors in this volume come from the basic and – I hope –
fairly self-evident assumption that sustained democratic change is now an
imperative of the highest order. What is so interesting about this collection
is the diversity of viewpoints and the alternating currents of pessimism and
optimism that run through it. For the most part, the authors rarely delve into
the kind of neo-conservative posturing that obscures a nuanced understanding
of the interplay between political Islam and democratization.
There are some unfortunate exceptions, such as Ladan and Roya
Boroumand’s embarrassing assertion that Hassan al-Banna “borrowed the
idea of heroic death as a political art form,” while Emmanuel Sivan commits
a surprising factual error when he posits that the Sudanese Islamist
regime is an example of “one man, one vote, one time.” ...