In 2003, under the presidency of George W. Bush and following the apparently successful cleansing of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, the U.S. invaded Iraq. At that time we were told that Saddam Hussein, a known despotic ruler, had weapons of mass destruction and desired to build an atomic bomb.

President Bush was determined to end the rule of Hussein and take democracy to Iraq. He hoped that democracy there would be a catalyst to bring democracy in the region. Congress approved and the U.S. was involved in a second war.

After years of conflict, Iraq has gradually taken on the trappings of democracy with elections of their leaders by its people. The three major ethnic Iraqi groups, Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, have had their differences and periodic killings still occur; but, the country is turning down a democratic path that appears promising. Before the end of President Bush’s term, it was determined that U.S. forces would leave Iraq by the end of 2011. President Obama is determined to carry through with Bush’s decision. This will end U.S. active involvement in Iraq and we shall see if a democratic seed has been planted.

The Middle East is still threatened by powers, principally Iran. We are told that there will be a U.S. troop presence in Kuwait, which is a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman. This arrangement should continue our opportunity to observe ongoing events in the Middle East.

Is Iraq becoming a beacon of democracy attracting other regional states? It is too early to decide in the case of Afghanistan. Yes, it have gone through democratic processes in selecting its current form of government. Have there been forces of graft and coercion in the process? It would seem so. Pakistan is not the most selfless neighbor because of its fear of India and Pakistan has sheltered many foes of a democracy in Afghanistan. And, Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan remains a big question mark.

Turn to North Africa and the Arab Spring uprisings. This began in Tunisia with the innocent death of a fruit vendor early last spring. The youth of that country revolted and overthrew their dictator. Tunisia experienced its first democratic election in October. Some factions were not happy with the outcomes, but democracy takes getting used to. Following the catalyst of Tunisia, Egyptian youth revolted against their government, and now they wait the development of a constitution and then elections. And so on: Yemen, Bahrain and Ethiopia.

Concerning Iran’s influence on Syria: Sunnis are the largest ethnic group and should have some say about the country’s future. Conflict continues in that country, but neighbors are beginning to apply pressure. Turkey, a country both democratic and Islamic, is reacting negatively to the continued governmental repression of its neighbor.

Is Iraq’s emerging democracy having an effect? Will democratic governments become the will of the citizens? It would appear that youth in those countries would desire such. They have been enabled by their use of cyberspace. They are in constant contact with each other, are knowledgeable about current conditions, and have that youthful exuberance and desire to have for themselves what western democratic societies provide for their citizens.

There is no greater energetic group of people than those in their late teens, 20s and early 30s. They are the ones who have always served and fought in battles in which they believed. That energy and desire is now the engine that is driving Middle Eastern countries towards democracy. Thomas Jefferson aptly phrased it several centuries ago: To expect a democracy to survive in an uneducated country is to expect the impossible.

This Jeffersonian warning should give western powers thought about how to ensure the development of democracy. The creation of schools for girls in Afghanistan is one such positive step. Cairo University in Egypt has equipped some Egyptians to be ready for a true democracy in their country. I’ll never forget seeing a tall statue of a woman tearing off her veil in front of the university. What a powerful symbol for youthful yearning for education and democracy.

Now for the final two questions: Was President Bush correct in wanting to take democracy to Iraq; and does an emerging democracy in Iraq have effect on the youth in other Middle Eastern and African countries?

You have to answer that for yourself.