When democracy was developed in ancient Athens, it did not mean everyone got the vote. Only male landowners had a vote. The Magna Carta guaranteed the rights of noblemen, not the common peasants. Even our own Constitution never envisioned a time women would have the vote, and slaves were never intended to have the vote as they are only mentioned in the document as having the census value of 3/5ths of a person.
A democratic government needs to grow into itself. What worked as a gradual evolution in America was a revolution in France that set off a reign of terror and continental war.
Now let’s take a fresh look at the “Arab Spring”. Like the revolution in Iran, it has been a disaster for civilization. As a nation, we need to be more discerning about which we support, democracy or modernity. Apparently the Arab street will not allow both. I believe modernity is more important.
Our Islamists enemies are not concerned with the rights of those unlike them. As we were on the wrong side in Vietnam (we could have made a deal with Ho and avoided an awful war), wrong to be against the Russians in Afghanistan (they were right to fear Islamic extremists, we were wrong to arm them), we were wrong not to help the Shah crush the Islamists (he or his heir could have been moved to a Constitutional monarchy such as Jordan or even the United Kingdom), we were wrong to abandon Mubarak (Egypt could have been guided to be more like a democratic India). The point is, we are always wrong to support religion over reason and call it support for democracy. We should always be on the side of modernity and against the primitive and superstitious regardless of the numbers involved.
True democracy is earned incrementally as assurances are built that a majority mob of religious nutballs will never rule. Evolution of democracy has worked here because it was given time to mature and we had a Bill of Rights to protect the minority from the majority.
Our best examples for hope for the “Arab Spring” are states such as Turkey and Russia that first had to crush religion as a political force, but have gradually let it come back in a more benign form. Egyptian military, please take note: Ataturk made Turkey a modern democracy, not the clerics. Take a clue from history. You too Obama administration. It’s not too late to make a deal with the Russians and let Assad retire to Monaco. An Islamic republic of Syria with clerics in charge armed with chemical weapons is an unacceptable outcome.