I've been wondering if, given the transitions that took place in the UK and France that forcibly centralised the culture and aligned the people with the nation rather than the faith, it's at all reasonable to suggest that illiberal cultures can transition to liberal ones (democratic or not) by swiftly adopting the norms and laws of western society that took centuries to develop after said transitions. That's .. a loaded question and the intended answer is no. Reading the comparison (in MEJ) between Turkish and European paths to post-religion-centric governance, intended to illuminate difficulties with similar paths in Arab society, and thinking about the types of mediation democracy can and cannot effectively handle (degree/types of difference between parties of certain strengths as well as degree of passion/disinclination to accept democracy as a tool to temporarily settle those differences), I don't think a western-style secular liberal government is something easily established without shaping that itself would be quite illiberal (at least by many people's standards - those who want church and state to be independent and the state to not take a heavy hand in managing culture). I won't claim it to be impossible for the prerequisites for a society like ours to be reached through purely/mostly non-state methods, but looking at the history, that's not what happened and it's an uncharted path.
I find the notions of sovereignty based on things other than nationality to be interesting, as well as alternatives to sovereignty. Given that in modern times, most Americans and Europeans take it for granted, that other ideas once had a similarly widespread acceptance (and in some places still do) makes it an interesting sort of thing to play with. Any set of political ideas that are described or introduced as self-evident (or other such propogandic rubbish) need close examination when historically and presently they arn't in fact universal.
Playing around with GIMP - the bucket-fill-with-threshold tool makes for images that reveal interesting patterns that catch my eye.. I wonder how much of the odd shapes it reveals are the result of quirks in JPEG compression.. if I had taken the shots in one of the RAW formats and then converted straight to a lossless format (uncompressed TIFF?), would I get the same effects? Example (on a vanity shot):
I'm still reading and thinking about Ahmadinejad's speech/discussion at Columbia University yesterday - more on that later.