The American Interest

Mr. Bush and Democracy in the Middle East

In 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini told Oriana Fallaci that Western music dulls the mind.  “It involves pleasure and ecstasy, similar to drugs,” he explained; it does not exalt the spirit but puts it to sleep, and “it distracts our youth who become poisoned by it.”  “Even the music of Bach, Beethoven, Verdi?” Fallaci asked.  “I do not know these names,” Khomeini replied but went on to allow for the possibility that some of Western music is acceptable: “For example, marches and hymns for marching . . . Yes, but your marches are permitted.”

The fact that the late Ayatollah—just like Grand Mufti al-Husseyni before him—would have found Die Fahne Hoch to his musical taste indicates an important obstacle to the fulfillment of President George W. Bush’s freshly reiterated goal of spreading democracy to the Middle East.

In a much-heralded speech on November 6, Mr. Bush told the National Endowment for Democracy that 

sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe—and in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

The President added that there was no reason why the people of the Middle East should not enjoy democracy: “It should be clear to all that Islam—the faith of one-fifth...

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