The throngs of Ukrainians who braved repression and bitter cold
in Kiev's Independence Square were ostensibly rejecting November's
But they stood for a truth the world is rediscovering as a new
wave of democratization laps at resistant shores: Democracy is safe
and solid only when it swells from the people and rests on
As the world has watched Ukraine, and prepares to turn its focus
to the Middle East - Palestinians will elect a leader to succeed
Yasser Arafat next week, and Iraqis are to hold their first open
multiparty elections later this month - several larger lessons of
what makes democracy take root and work are again being learned by
the world, experts say. Among them:
* That democratization, unlike consumerism, can't be built on
imports, but must be a home-grown process springing from fervent
* That people power isn't enough, but rather it is institutions -
and especially a judiciary and legislative branch capable of
standing up to an overpowering executive - that make a true
* That elections, while important as measuring sticks and for
encouraging participation and a sense of stakeholding, do not alone
make a nation democratic.
All of these points are reinforced by events in Ukraine, experts
say, while they suggest that democratization in Iraq, as well as
throughout the Middle East, have only just begun.
"The change in Ukraine is not coming because we or the Europeans
are supporting it, but because there is a strong demand for it
domestically, and that is something worth remembering as we look
over our recent experience in Afghanistan or look towards Iraq,"
says Marina Ottaway, an expert in foreign policy and democratic
processes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in
Washington. "Countries do not become democratic because someone
outside demands it."
The stakes are obviously high, since economic advancement and the
prospect of greater stability often accompany the spread of freedom.
The need for stakeholders and strong institutions doesn't mean
the US effort to promote democracy in Iraq is doomed, but rather
that the process can be expected to take a long time - perhaps
longer than many Americans are prepared for.
"Will Americans have the patience to leave our troops in Iraq
long enough to provide the conditions where democracy can grow? I
have my doubts about that," says David Davenport, a specialist in
the global ramifications of public policy at Pepperdine University
in Malibu, Calif.
President Bush, too, appears to have growing concerns that
Americans are becoming impatient with democracy's slog in Iraq - a
slog that he warns will only begin with January's parliamentary
elections. He recently asked Americans to be patient with the
In thinking about democratization, Mr. Davenport says three words
come to mind - "conditions," "time," and "messy" - all of which are
factors that he believes can make achieving democracy more difficult
in the 21st century than in, say, 18th century America. "Tocqueville
reminds us that democracy requires certain conditions to be planted,
watered, and to grow, and while those conditions existed ideally in
America, they don't exist just anywhere now," he says. "We have to
be mindful of the difficulties posed by competing ideologies, a
globalized economy, and intense international competition."
Steps ahead for Iraq
While Ukraine is more than a decade into the process of building
a new system of governance, Iraq is not yet two years into its post-
Hussein era - and trying to create something new while under foreign
occupation and facing a violent insurgency.
Some observers doubt the Iraqi fervor for democracy. But with
bombs blasting and attacks on civilians associated with the
elections accelerating, it is often fear that keeps Iraqis from
fully embracing the process. …