• This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," July 22, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denounced Israel's attacks on Lebanon this week in language that was noticeably stronger than that used by other Arab governments in the region. What's behind this split in Arab sentiment?

    Fouad Ajami is the director of the Middle East Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University, a CBS News analyst and the author of the new book, "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq."

    Fouad, welcome.

    FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much, Paul.

    GIGOT: In your new book, you talk about the foreigner's gift to the Arab world. What do you mean by that?

    AJAMI: Well, in a way, there is a kind of ambivalence in the title, because as you know when foreigners bear gifts, it is a complicated gift.

    But fundamentally, this is a book that really makes the case for the war, and it is a very sympathetic account of the war and a kind of account of the bet that we have made on this war that will change some of the ways of the Arab world and a portrait of the Iraqis and the Americans caught up in this war.

    GIGOT: And a bet on the democracy project...

    AJAMI: Absolutely.

    GIGOT: ... President Bush's democracy project, which you argue is still a bet worth taking.

    AJAMI: Absolutely. That's the argument.

    GIGOT: Well, a lot of Americans looking at the turmoil in the Middle East now have made the case that look, this is actually making the Middle East a more dangerous place, this democracy project, because you have Hamas, a terror regime, taking over in Palestine, that you have Hezbollah, which has representatives in the Lebanese parliament, now making trouble in the Middle East.

    What's your response to that argument that, hey, this project is making the world more dangerous?

    AJAMI: Well, I don't think we are here because of the democratic impulse, if you will, in the Arab world. We are here because of other things. We are here because of the push of Iran into the Arab world. We are here because of the thwarted ambitions of the Syrians. We are here because of the intersection, if you will, between Iran's ambitions and the radicalism in the Arab world.

    So we are not here because somehow or another we have tried to reform the ways of the Arab world. This crisis makes it even more imperative that you have to protect order in the region and the democratic aspirations of people. The Lebanese government is a fairly democratic government, elected in a democratic way, and yet here it is hostage to the wider currents of this Arab radicalism.

    GIGOT: But I think some of the dictators in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would say, see, America, this is what happens when you try to roll the dice of history, as I think you put it in your book, and try to — we offered you stability for 20, 30 years. Now you have this mess. Don't do this.

    AJAMI: Well, the terrible price was paid for stability. We know what the price was. It was 9/11. So we rejected this kind of argument. I mean, this is really the kind of where we are now.

    GIGOT: Does the democracy effort in the Middle East have to go through what some people are calling this radical period, where you have to let the people of the region elect a Hamas, if that's their choice, and then have to live with the consequences before they discover that in fact radicals don't deliver what they want — stability, prosperity — and then maybe we will enter an era which is better?

    AJAMI: Well, in truth now, the question of democracy has been put aside. I mean, in fact we have this war on the Israeli-Lebanese border, and indeed this is a very tenacious crisis, because if you recall, we all went through the war of a quarter century ago, there was another war in Lebanon, the Lebanon war of 1982, because there was another bid in Lebanon that was playing out.