DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ….Dan Drezner’s monthly New Republic column is up, and I generally like it. He argues in favor of democracy in Iraq (and the Middle East generally) without dismissing the obvious difficulties. I wish we had more people like him making policy in Washington instead of utopian ideologues like Wolfowitz and Perle.

On the other hand, he cites Turkey and Iran in defense of his optimism about Mideast democracy, but I think these can be taken both ways. Turkey is indeed on its way to becoming a modern liberal democracy, but it’s not fully there yet and it’s taken 70 years so far. Iran, as Dan notes, is a democracy but far from a liberal one, and they’ve been at it for 20 years. So while democracy is possible, it’s likely to take a very long time to establish.

In a followup to his piece he mentions the idea of a “club” of emerging Mideast democracies as a carrot that the U.S. could use to promote democratic institutions. At first glance this seems kind of silly, but it’s not, really. Talking shops ? like the UN, for example ? really do have benefits, and the U.S. could also use its club to provide more tangible benefits as well. More important, however, is the general category of incentives that Dan is talking about. There are lots of small things we can do to nudge things in the right direction, and this is just an example.