Tyranny and Terror
Paula J. Dobriansky
Henry A. Crumpton
F. Gregory Gause III
The Bush administration contends that the push for democracy in the Muslim world will
improve U.S. security. But this premise is faulty: there is no evidence that democracy
reduces terrorism. Indeed, a democratic Middle East would probably result in Islamist
governments unwilling to cooperate with Washington.
In "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?" (September/October 2005), Gregory Gause posits a
one-dimensional solution to a multidimensional problem. Unfortunately, he also
incorrectly claims that President George W. Bush has done the same, in believing that
promoting democracy can alone defeat terrorism. Gause writes, "The Bush administration
and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread
American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world,
the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism."
The administration, of course, has never prescribed democracy as the single-dose remedy
to the terrorist disease. On the contrary, the president's 2003 National Strategy for
Combating Terrorism features a broad range of antiterrorist measures. The strategy also
declares essential the coordinated deployment of all the instruments of statecraft, at home
and abroad. President Bush underscored this during his September 15, 2005, speech to
world leaders at the UN in New York. He spoke about confronting threats directly,
engaging the enemy, disrupting terrorist networks, denying enemies safe haven, building
international coalitions, forging treaties that reinforce the rule of law, denying the enemy
weapons of mass destruction, and changing the conditions that terrorists exploit.
Such conditions include, among others, a shifting mix of international geopolitics,
economics, religion, ideology, ignorance, cultural stress, and intolerant political systems
that offer little room for political expression or personal freedom. This environment
enables terrorist leaders to advance their own agenda, to exert influence, to recruit, and to
escalate local conflicts. Tyranny does afford our terrorist enemies an advantage.
Terrorism-conducive conditions can converge in specific geographic areas, often in
illiberal societies and lawless or nondemocratic states, where the enemy can establish
safe haven. Tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, illiberal and
undergoverned by legitimate state authority, provide al Qaeda leaders such refuge.
Illiberal and ambitious Iran sponsors international terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, as
proxy forces and hinders cooperation within the region on anti-al Qaeda policies.
Nondemocratic and illiberal Syria does the same. Countries that lack functioning law