Muhammad Idrees Ahmad at the LA Review of Books:
A SPECTER is haunting the Levant — the specter of Hobbes.
As the democratic upheavals that swept the Arab world in 2011 have given way to bloodshed and instability, Western mavens are reverting to old verities. The Arab world is “not ready for democracy” they say. To restore order, to contain passions, and, above all, to protect the West from the twin dangers of terror and migration, the Arab world will need its Leviathans. For most of the post-colonial era, friendly autocrats had protected the West from these threats; they are being called into service again. If dungeons and dictators are the price of security, they reason, at least the costs are borne by others.
The United States’s dalliance with “democracy promotion” was brief and had already ended in Iraq by 2010. The Arab Spring was a blip. In Iraq, despite Nouri al-Maliki’s determined effort to shape the outcome of the 2010 parliamentary elections, his sectarian bloc had secured fewer seats than a cross-sectarian alliance led by Iyad Allawi. In a surprise move, the US government backed Maliki to serve as prime minster for a second term. “Iraq is not ready for democracy,” General Ray Odierno was told by Chris Hill, an Obama Administration official, “[it] needs a Shia strongman.”