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Democratisation in the Middle East - the debate

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 08:23 pm
The topic has come up in many different threads, obviously. But some of those threads focused on specific sub-topics or topics that overlapped (the origins of terrorism, the Iraq war), while others, even if just in thread title alone ("NYT calls Bush a Genius") seem to primarily target US domestic politics.

So I thought it would be good to start a thread where discussion on democratisation in the Middle East could come together. What's happening? Why is it happening? What are the pitfalls and opportunities? What should be done - by the governments there, by citizens groups, by our own governments in the West?

Perhaps to start off the discussion a straightforward (but not necessarily simple) question: what five things do you think need to happen in order to promote democratisation in the ME?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 08:38 pm
Oh goody - I just got access back to Foreign Affairs and such.....
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 08:58 pm
Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list from me:

1: Support civil society groups: NGOs, citizens' groups, associations of journalists (or other professionals for that matter - trade unions, too), womens groups, writers' associations (often a breeding ground for new and dissenting thought), student movements, the lot. Provide them with practical support and facilitation. Hey, if George Soros could almost single-handedly fund and foster civil society in postcommunist Europe, from minority groups to pro-democracy activists, environmental organisations and new universities, why couldn't it be done in the ME? It's worked in Serbia, the Ukraine, Georgia ...

2: Scout and foster young political talent (sort of a subset of 1, really). The region is dominated by aging autocrats who reign over oppressive and slow-moving bureaucracies. If change is to come, it's going to come - or at least be pushed along - from new corners. A brave new party pleads for less media censorship or womens rights? A young politician dares attack the corruption of ruling circles? Show them (and those who might want to clamp down on them!) that they don't stand alone. Organise exchange visits with young politicians in other countries of similar reformist bent - remember how the Serbian students "taught" the Georgians and Ukrainians. (Probably better not immediately make the exchange with the US itself though, that would just provide fodder to the conservative forces who will be eager to call them US stooges already anyway). Set up local training programmes on how to present your message, organise a local base et cetera (possible a role for the NDI or the IRI). And above all, send a clear signal to the ruling party as soon as arrest or other such clampdown looms that it will be strongly and publicly condemned. That often makes it think twice - publicity from abroad is key to a dissident's safety.

3: Be consistent in reacting to regressions into authoritarianism. A regime reverts to persecuting an ethnic minority? A wave of arrests of oppositional politicians or democracy activists? Systemic torture of political prisoners? React clearly, swiftly and consistently. Apply the same rule to all: America (etc) will not tolerate it. No exceptions, not for political allies whose strategic support might be tempting on another count (oil, war) either. Recall the ambassador, stop arms sales, cut aid, table a resolution in the UN, establish punitive sanctions against the ruling elite, threaten with intervention - there's a range of escalating steps available short of war, that just need to be used - even if it might be a bit inconvenient.

4: Aggressively tackle the Israel/Palestine conflict. I'm including this point at the risk of derailing the thread straight away (it's not meant to become yet another Israel thread), simply because you can't go around it. It's true - there is more suffering in Darfur than in Palestine. The Syrian state, the Uzbek government - there's regimes in the ME who apply greater military and police force than Israel does. But right or wrong, the lot of the Palestines is central to thinking across the region. Any Western government that is seen to simply take the Israeli side and accept the occupied territories as a fact of life will not be accepted as a fair broker for democracy or human rights elsewhere. And as long as the Palestines live in occupied territories, nationalist and Islamist populists around the region can resort to Israel-bashing to derail and distract the domestic call for more democracy at will.

5: Tackle corruption. Corruption may be considered a fact of life in many countries, but it plays an insidious role in semi-authoritarian societies. It stifles creative thought and enterprise, hampers the inflow of new blood into government and bureaucracy, frustrates and alienates the population, making it believe none of their initiative would be any use anyway, and subverts democracy, turning parliaments into clientelistic money-machines instead of media for popular opinion and desires. How can you tackle corruption from the outside? By tying aid programmes to performance on corruption (measured by Transparency International standards for example). By refusing to award contracts or commercial transactions with all too blatantly corrupt companies from the countries in question. Or even by not awarding government contracts to American (etc) companies that do too little to avoid or resist corruption in their dealings in the ME (some graft is in some countries simply unavoidable, but some companies are more unscrupulous than others).

Hope that wasn't too long. Just wanted to make the discussion a little more concrete, and move it beyond the for/against Bush level (hope I didnt kill the thread).

(Edited for clarity, getting the bold type in the right place and such)
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:04 pm
nimh, Some good seems to be developing in the ME towards "democracy," but when one digs into the details of their "democracy," we find that most countries in the ME will not allow equality for women - even if they did vote. Burkas are still required by women; if they don't comply, they can still be stoned. Democracy doesn't develop over night in countries where religion controls the people. On the same token, religion can destroy countries with democracy. Let's not jump to any conclusions about the success or failure of democratization of the ME; l'm open to discussing the pros and cons as things develop in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. I'll bookmark for now.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:06 pm
I think "tackle corruption" should be number one. Too many countries with great potential fail because of the corruption of their governments.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:14 pm
The ME cannot be treated as a monolithic entity. Democracy and democratization have developed and are developing along each countrys' present and historical circumstances. As far as Palestine goes, the democratic process has always been there.

The death of Arafat, who was wildly popular among Palestinians, and the election of Abbas has provided a fresh start for the Palestinians. Things had gotten stagnant under Arafat, what with the corruption that goes along with a long entrenched leadership, the inability/unwillingness to forgo violence in the face of the Israel's about-face and reneging after Rabin's murder.

A pitfall may be the election of a more militant, more religionist leadership by the Palestinians after Abbas' term if they don't see their lot improving in regard to their conflict with Israel.

Western governments need to be more evenhanded in their influence thereof.

Violence must be renounced. The Palestinians would have the moral upper hand if they would stop their militant factions, and pursue a course of non-violence. The militants are the potential spoilers of any kind of progress that might be achieved by the Palestinians.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:24 pm
c.i., there are great differences between Arab countries too. The burqas you mention are for example by no means obligatory wear for women in all, or even most Arab countries - you won't see Moroccan, Lebanese or Egyptian women wear them, I don't think.

Lusatian posted a thought-provoking article, dont know from where, in a thread of its own just today, I only now noticed: Are We Serious About Arab Democracy?. Definitely worth a read. Here are some excerpts:

Quote:
Possibilities and perils Learning from Iraq

The article continues to make the rather daring case that if the democatic experient is to work, it needs to actually integrate the extremist, even terrorist groups. The only way a form of democracy works in Lebanon and Palestine is with Hezbollah and Hamas in parliament - rather inside than outside on the street throwing bombs at the building. The author thus also pleads for allowing the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian elections - just look at the alternative, he warns, the Algerian example:

Quote:
Look no further than Algeria to see why: In 1991, the military regime there yielded to pressure and held elections. But when it became clear that the Islamic Salvation Front had won the first phase of the poll, democracy was abruptly canceled. The result was a savage terror backlash that has seen more than 100,000 Algerians killed over the past decade, and helped swell the ranks of al-Qaeda (the U.S. and France backed the military regime). If a new generation of young Egyptians see their calls for change dashed in a sham election, al-Qaeda may well be the big winner.

The two, related, challenges facing advocates of Arab democracy are to accept that it will involve parties that the U.S. might regard as beyond the pale, and that the results may be quite different from those Washington would prefer. [..] But allowing Arab electorates the right to choose their own leaders is still healthier in the long run. The burden of governing is almost always a moderating experience. (Just ask Turkey's crypto-Islamist government, or the leftist administration of President Lula in Brazil.) The alternative, to promise democracy but curtail it when we don't like the outcome, may be even more dangerous.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:33 pm
In the example of Hamas, it is not only a terrorist group. Hamas is a big social services organization in Palestine that runs schools, clinics, etc. for large segments of the population. To bar them from the democratic process would be to disenfranchise a large portion of the Palestinian public. Abbas is readily including Hamas in his domestic policies.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2005 09:39 pm
nimh, All points well taken. All the Arab countries are not the same with different histories and religious demands. You are right about the wearing of burqas; I remember our trip to Turkey many years ago where our local guide was a "modern" Muslim. She wore western clothes, and she showed the independence of women of any western country. I have also been to Egypt where the women are free to wear or not to wear burqas. I think Afghanistan is another story; even though women may have voted during their last election, many women have gone back to wearing burqas. That's the whole idea of my earlier post; we need to discuss the details of each country as an independent entity to see how their government progress to "democracy."
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kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 02:27 am
bm
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gravy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 04:00 am
Great question -- Bookmarking to ponder before responding...
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 07:18 am
Ok - I have access to a Foreign Affairs article on this very matter.

It is subscriber only - and I cannot reproduce too much without breaching copyright - so I will paste crucial bits here.

Foreign Affairs source

The Right Way to Promote Arab Reform
Steven A. Cook
From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005


Summary: If President Bush hopes to make good on his promise to bring democracy to the Arab world, he must rethink U.S. strategy, which overemphasizes civil society and economic development. Neither has caused much political liberalization in the Middle East, nor have more punitive measures. To promote Arab democracy, Washington needs a new approach: offering financial incentives for political reform.

Steven A. Cook is a Next Generation Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.





LEARNING HOW TO HELP

Since taking office four years ago,......Bush has often spoken of the need for political reform in the Arab world. Ordinary Arabs, however, have had good reason to be skeptical of his much-discussed "forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East." After all, their region has been mired in political stasis for years, thanks in part to U.S. support for many of the Middle East's dictators. For most of the last five decades, Washington has done little to promote Arab democratization, relying instead on the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to help protect vital U.S. interests in the neighborhood.

This skepticism, however, may no longer be warranted. On the morning of September 11, 2001, U.S. priorities in the Middle East changed..... the Bush administration came to see democratization... as the critical means by which to achieve (security and stability). ...... Arab authoritarianism could no longer be viewed as a source of stability; instead, it was the primary threat to it. To "drain the swamp" that had incubated Islamist radicals such as Osama bin Laden, it became critical to promote political liberalization, even democratization, in the Middle East, and this goal became a central feature of U.S. national security policy.

.....(before 9/11) ...three different approaches toward the Arab world: punishing its enemies with diplomatic isolation, sanctions, and invasion; bolstering civil society; and promoting economic development in friendly states. Assuming that these last two tactics would gently drive political liberalization, the United States funded good-governance programs in Egypt, promoted industrial zones in Jordan, and provided various forms of economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority and, more recently, Yemen.
....none ... proved very effective, and the failure of the United States to generate political reform in the Arab world before now should serve as a source of caution. .... Although the process may be difficult and fraught with risk, promoting the rise of liberal democratic political systems in the Arab world is the only way to reduce, over the long run, the odds of another attack on Americans by Middle Eastern terrorists. It is time, therefore, for Washington to refocus on the challenge: How can it best foster an environment in the Middle East that is conducive to reform? And how can it do so without sacrificing its key interests?

....... what exactly hinders Arab political development, .... what will convince Arab leaders to change. As they build a new strategy, one principle should guide U.S. leaders: punitive policies have proven, time and again, to be of limited value or even counterproductive. Washington needs, instead, to adopt an incentive-based approach, one that will lead Arab countries to fundamentally revise their institutions.

ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTIONS
....U.S. officials will have to abandon two central tenets of their past and present approach: reliance on civil society and pressure for economic reform, both of which, it has long been thought, contribute to democratization in authoritarian states.

"Civil society" is political science shorthand for private voluntary groups, including nongovernmental organizations dedicated to issues such as human rights and good governance. ..... civil society is often seen these days as a leading force for democratization. As such groups proliferate, the argument runs, individuals become more assertive in demanding their political rights. Once these demands reach a certain pitch, authoritarian leaders are forced to make meaningful changes or risk being swept away. The policy implications of this theory are neat and tidy: to encourage liberalization in repressive states, simply encourage the growth of civil society.........


This philosophy has.... been the lodestar of U.S. democratization policy....... .......Throughout the 1990s, in addition to providing much-needed technical and economic assistance to friendly Arab countries, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pursued programs to encourage the development of civic groups in Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. Federally funded U.S. organizations such as the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute also worked hard to do the same.

The U.S. faith in civil society dates from the end of the Cold War, when such groups played a major role in toppling communist regimes ..... however, there is little evidence to suggest that such groups are likely to play a similar role in the Arab world today..... many Arab countries are already awash in civic organizations ... these countries remain oppressive. (They) may provide critical social services, such as medical care, education, and legal representation, but many of the groups involved, such as those affiliated with radical Islamist movements, are decidedly undemocratic. Others have proven too willing to cooperate with local nondemocratic regimes.....

....another problem.....(is ....related to the United States' dismal image in the Arab world......many local activists refuse to work with Americans. Washington's policies toward the region--from the Iraq war and the war on terrorism to its support for Israel--are so unpopular that Arab activists cannot embrace the United States, or even be seen to cooperate with it, without compromising their credibility within the communities they serve.

Washington's second major misapprehension about how to spur democracy--through economic development--stems from a confusion of correlation with causation. Economic development and democratization may in fact often go hand in hand, but this does not mean that the former causes the latter. ..... social science research indicates that, although economic growth is critical to sustaining democracy, it is not enough to create it. Yet Washington acts as though it is: programs run by the Partnership for Progress (an initiative by the G-8 group of highly industrialized countries plus Russia to promote political change in the Middle East), MEPI, and USAID are all predicated on the assumption that economic development produces new entrepreneurs, who inevitably demand greater political openness.

The Middle East, however, has refused to conform to this model. Whenever Arab leaders have reformed their economies--as during Egypt's much-vaunted infitah (opening) in the late 1970s or Algeria's version of the same in the 1980s--the result has been economic liberalization without either the institutionalization of market economies or the emergence of democracy. As expected, economic development has given rise to new classes of entrepreneurs. But these business leaders, whose fortunes have remained tied largely to the state, have been easily co-opted by local repressive regimes.

....these two approaches failed to achieve the intended result in the Middle East.... (as)..... have Washington's more punitive alternatives. Over the last decade, the United States has subjected Libya, Iran, and, most famously, Iraq to military, economic, and diplomatic sanctions in an effort to contain their rogue governments and, it was hoped, to compel them to alter their behavior. Although one can argue that containment stopped some problems from getting worse and even helped produce positive results in some cases (such as Libya's move away from radicalism), it cannot be said that punitive measures (short of invasion) actually resulted in any political liberalization. In fact, sanctions have tended to be counterproductive, with Saddam Hussein having been particularly adept at manipulating them to stoke nationalist resentment and rally Iraqis behind his regime.

....the ultimate punitive policy instrument is war, and, as its code name suggests, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was, among other things, intended to bring democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East. It is far from clear, however, that the war has contributed anything to the drive for democracy in places such as Amman, Cairo, Damascus, or Riyadh. The arrival of U.S. troops in Iraq may alter the behavior of some states on the country's borders, but this does not mean that the new Iraq will somehow act as a catalyst for political liberalization and democracy in the region. In fact, as security in Iraq continues to deteriorate, many Iraqis are starting to think fondly of the benefits--such as stability and order--that a strongman can provide. With Iraq's transformation into an ostensibly liberal pluralist state growing ever bloodier, democracy--imported at the tip of an m-16 rifle--is looking less and less appealing to many Arabs.

Punitive measures have been no more successful with U.S. allies in the region. Congress...(via Democrat Mr lantos) has recently considered measures such as shifting $325 million of the funds currently given to Egypt for military assistance to economic support. .....the proposal has caused an uproar in Cairo, with Hosni Mubarak's government portraying the measure as a cut in U.S. aid designed to weaken Egypt. (The fact that Lantos is a long-time supporter of Israel and did not propose similar cuts to Jerusalem's aid package did not help.)....


The reason that the promotion of civil society, economic development, and sanctions have not led to political reform in the Arab world is that none of them addresses the real obstacles to change in the region: flawed institutions. Institutions are the organizations, arrangements, laws, decrees, and regulations that constitute the political rules of the game in any given society......Arab states boast such institutions in spades; the problem is ..... their nature. In the Arab world, these institutions are designed to ensure the authoritarian character of the regimes. Rather than guarantee rights or give citizens a voice, Arab political institutions tend to restrict political participation, limit individual freedom, and vest overwhelming power in the executive branch of government.....

.......the discussion about Arab reform seems to have achieved more talk but not much institutional change. Minor modifications have been made, but authoritarian politics prevail throughout the Middle East. Bahrain, for example, kicked off an experiment in political liberalization in 2002. But authorities recently closed the country's leading human rights organization and jailed its leader (he was eventually released, and his organization reopened, after much political wrangling). Citizens of Qatar, meanwhile, have enjoyed greater political rights since the promulgation of a new constitution in September 2004, but that same constitution also institutionalized the absolute power of the emir and his family.


.....U.S. policymakers have yet to come up with a way to press such countries to liberalize their institutions.....such change is hard.... it is ...critical to the emergence of democratic politics in the Arab world. Washington should... focus on ....ways to make it easier for democratic politics to emerge. ...with some creative thinking, Washington can figure out how to use its massive financial, military, and diplomatic resources to drive institutional change.

.....best way to.... move away from negative pressures and toward more positive, incentive-based policies. In the abstract, such policies involve getting others to do what you want by promising them something valuable in return. In this case, the United States can use the prospect of increased aid or membership in international clubs and organizations as levers to encourage Arab progress toward the establishment of pluralism, the rule of law, power sharing, property rights, and free markets.

....United States should offer Arab states additional money, contingent on their undertaking reform......


(As with) ......Egypt--the second-largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid..... In 1978, Washington promised Cairo that if Egypt would make peace and normalize relations with Israel, the United States would underwrite the modernization of Egypt's armed forces and economy. Egypt complied, and ever since, it has technically upheld its end of the bargain by keeping the peace--albeit a frosty one--with Israel. The United States, however, should demand more for its money..... such aid has become institutionalized: the $2.2 billion Egypt gets each year has morphed from an incentive for the Egyptians to maintain good relations with Israel into a vested bureaucratic and legislative interest.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and, more recently, Algeria and Yemen have enjoyed U.S. support without being asked to make any reciprocal commitment to the United States. Some policy experts have argued that Washington cannot afford to put conditions on these gifts: to do so would jeopardize key U.S. priorities in the region, such as access to the Suez Canal, Riyadh's general cooperation, and Amman's constructive role in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. But this argument underestimates the importance of the United States to the countries in question. Washington's Arab friends need it as much as, if not more than, the United States needs them. Could Cairo really afford to deny U.S. warships transit through the Suez Canal?

Precisely because the United States is the predominant foreign power in the Middle East--and because the Arab states have no alternative ally--Washington is well positioned to implement new incentive-based policies. ....strong precedents exist to show just how effective such an approach can be. In the 1990s, for example, the United States employed incentives to encourage Ukraine to abandon the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviet Union. Washington promised Kiev economic aid, investment, joint research and development programs, and a guaranteed share of the space-launch market if the latter would create credible export-control mechanisms for sensitive materials and technologies, cancel its plans to upgrade its missiles, and renege on an agreement to supply Iran's nuclear program; Ukraine, eager for Western aid, quickly complied.

...... best example of a successful incentive-based approach is with Turkey, which has long sought to join the European Union. When Turkey petitioned the EU for membership, Brussels responded by setting clear political, economic, legal, and social standards for Ankara to meet first. The huge benefits ......created a vast constituency for reform in Turkey. ....... the Turkish parliament has been able to pass eight reform packages in the last three years. Turkey's Islamists have come to support the program, which they see as their best chance for securing formal political protections. The Islamists have cleverly recognized that, since the EU demands that its members institutionalize freedom of religion, Turkey, to become a candidate, will have to loosen government control on religious expression and Islamist political participation. Meanwhile, Turkey's long-dominant military has also signed on to the reform project. Although some of the changes demanded by Brussels will reduce the military's influence, Turkey's general staff has realized that it cannot oppose the project without looking like an enemy of modernization--something the inheritors of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's legacy cannot afford.


MORE HONEY, LESS VINEGAR

.....The Bush administration has, in fact, already embraced a more-honey-than-vinegar approach to democracy promotion through the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). This initiative, announced in 2003, promises to reward poor countries with increased aid if they meet 16 different standards on issues ranging from good governance, the rule of law, and public education to health care and economic transparency. The MCA has the potential to become a powerful new tool for promoting democracy in the Middle East and beyond. But Washington has yet to emphasize the program or to apply it systematically to countries in the Middle East.

....Although Washington cannot offer Arab countries membership in its own exclusive club, the United States does have a number of bilateral and multilateral policy levers it could use.....


.....Washington should start by reconfiguring its military assistance to Egypt.... put serious pressure on Cairo. At the moment, Egypt gets $1.3 billion from the United States each year for its military. This money comes with no strings attached. To help jump-start reform, Washington should actually up the offer to $2 billion. Of this amount, $1.3 billion, or the current total, would remain free from any conditions. But to get the extra $700 million, Cairo would have to embrace a range of reforms, ensuring, for example, greater transparency, government accountability, and wider political inclusion. .....

Such a program would offer a number of benefits both to the United States and to Egypt. First, restructuring U.S. military assistance in this manner would safeguard U.S. interests in the region by helping ensure that Egypt's military becomes technologically advanced and capable. Second, this new way of doing business would give Egyptians a more dignified role in their relationship with the United States: Cairo would be encouraged to undertake reform, but the ultimate choice would be theirs. Moreover, putting subtle pressure on the Egyptian leadership to reform will bolster U.S. credibility with the Egyptian public and help assuage general Arab skepticism toward Washington--which has long talked about political progress in the region while doing painfully little to make it happen.

Reconfiguring the U.S. aid package to Egypt would also reduce the risk of a rift developing between the two countries. Relations between Washington and Cairo have been strained in recent years by the war on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Cutting military aid now, as some have suggested--or even transferring military aid into economic assistance--would create a serious backlash in Cairo that could lead to a major break. Washington could ill afford such an event: Egypt can often be a fractious ally, but the pursuit of U.S. interests in the Middle East would become immeasurably more difficult if the Egyptian leadership decided to actively oppose them.

In the multilateral arena, the United States could offer to sponsor Arab participation in clubs such as the World Trade Organization ....--if...Arab states first agreed to conduct serious political liberalization and economic reform. ..... Arab leaders might complain that this requirement is unfair: after all, no one put such conditions on China, with its deplorable human rights record, when it joined the WTO. Like it or not, however, Arab leaders would retain the choice of whether to comply or not.

To be realistic, there are limits to what incentive-based policies can achieve. Offering new military aid will be more effective with Egypt and Jordan than with Morocco or Saudi Arabia, for example. Saudi Arabia needs the money much less and has such a critical strategic position that it can better resist pressure from the United States. As for Morocco, it is one of the few Arab states that has a viable alternative to the United States as a patron: Europe.

.... U.S. policymakers interested in pursuing an incentive-based approach with such countries will need to look to other areas where the United States can leverage its influence to encourage political and economic change. In the Saudi case, the answer might be a free trade agreement or a U.S. promise to sponsor Saudi membership in a variety of international organizations......


...... incentives are a critical--and critically underused--tool for effecting reform and spurring democratization in the Arab world. Current U.S. policy is based on a mix of defective assumptions: about the role of civil society, about the transformative effect of economic development, and about the efficacy of punitive policies to force change. If it is serious about finally spurring progress in the Middle East, the United States needs to focus more explicitly on political targets and embrace a more positive set of means. An incentive-based approach offers a more coherent, less intrusive, and ultimately more promising strategy toward the Arab world. As the attacks of September 11 showed, the old approach is broken. It's time for a fix.
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 07:40 am
I'll tell my first strong impression.

It is comical to read others' ideas about what Bush should do.

Bush has done what no one else would or could do--and others need to watch and learn. (Not talking about A2K--but Johnny Come Lately "journalists", and talking heads, who would NEVER have had the idea, or the balls to forward it, or even suggest it.)

Bush has done--and continues to do what is needed to foment freedom and democracy in the ME.

He has started it--and as he, and many of his supporters have said--it now has a life of it's own. All he has to do--is what he has been doing--

Speak in a scary manner to those who seek to thwart the spread of democracy (and be ready to back it up)--and help budding democracies, in any way necessary.

The more idealistic among us are sure to jump on the freedom bandwagon NOW--but when China threatens Taiwan--and we start the brinksmanship with China--will you still be behind the spread of democracy?
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 07:47 am
I wonder. Does not this emphasis on what we should do to assure "democratisation" in the ME implay that we of the West are the legitimate arbiters in all local matters? Whatever happened to Woodrow Wilson's dictum of self-determination for all peoples? I agree that no woman should be forced to wear a burqa and/or chador at risk of her life and limb. But, if wearing a burqa is part of the societal norm agreed upon by all, inlcuding those wearing the thing, are we not being smugly superior by saying, "tsk, tsk. That's terrible"? Self-detrmination, of course, implies the right of a majority to rise up against a government and any edicts that this majority considers oppresive. But, in a larger contetxt, do we have a right to insist that an ethnic group which knows no other form of government than an autocracy should be told that a democracy is better? What if they don't agree with us? What if they consider the emperor divine and want no part in overthrowing a government that has existed for centuries? Isn't it really true that most people get the kind of government that they want/desrve?

Okay, okay, I'm obviously playing the devil's advocate here to a certain extent. But these are points worth considering. All too often the Western powers (read: US) have interfered in the affairs of other countries only to discover that their interference -- and presence -- is not welcomed by those deemed to be "oppressed."
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 07:53 am
Merry--

Its valuable for someone to be the Devil's Advocate. It helps us to avoid groupthink--so I appreciate your efforts.

I'm pretty sure the overwhelming majority of women want to vote, and want to get that hot thing off their bodies--and would likely prefer not being beaten or killed if a man looks at her in the eye...but that's just me...

And, Merry--note, I didn't say force any more democracies--I said scare those who would take the choice away from others--and support those who are exerting themselves toward democracy.

I'll back off. Love to hear others' viewpoints on this.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 08:46 am
Nimh - it is interesting re-reading your points in the light of that article.

Eg - it is suggesting that the "civil society" stuff has failed in the Middle east.

Do you agree with this analysis?

I am very unsure re your young politicians thing. How do you mean to foster them?

I think any active backing form the US might well be the kiss of death...I wonder if the EU would have the same reaction?

(Oh - you already say that - the Eastern Europe analogy was interesting...)

The reaction to regression - hmmm - the torture stuff might not play well from the US - given the outsourcing of torture to Arab allies - and Abu Ghraib etc. The FA article is suggesting these policies - though clearly not consistently applied - may not be so useful - that the carrot approach may be better - from the west in general...

It seems the west in general is reacting a lot to Israel/Palestine at present - eg EU giving as much cachet as it can to Abbas - the US giving more money to foster his support by ordinary Palestinians (and, I guess, to deplete the aid and welfare components of Hamas' activities) - I wonder if any stick/carrot is being applied to Israel????
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 11:12 am
dlowan wrote:
I am very unsure re your young politicians thing. How do you mean to foster them?

I think any active backing form the US might well be the kiss of death...I wonder if the EU would have the same reaction?

(Oh - you already say that - the Eastern Europe analogy was interesting...)

Yup. The EU has gone through such lengths in supporting civil society in Eastern Europe - outright subsidising it in fact - a lot in terms of facilitating. All the foreign bureaus of Western parties have, too - the SPD's Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, for example. Its not about putting money into the bank account of your favourite party - that wont work - but more indirect means. For random example, organising meetings or conferences where different democratic groups or democratic groups from different countries are brought together. They learn a lot from each other's strategies, and start working together more - essential, because the splintered and dilettantist politics that usually characterise the situation directly after system changeovers provide autocrats with an excellent way to get or retain a grip on power (divide et impera). The most exciting element here I think is the crossnational 'borrowing' of techniques - Georgian opposition youth activists going to Belgrade to learn how Otpor got Milosevic out there, for example, or the same Otpor people going to Kiev to train the Ukrainian democrats.

Some of it takes place as you know, "trainings for young leaders", where "young community talents" get to pick up practical skills on PR, lobbying, knowledge of (the use of) international law and institutions, whatever - it looks like (and actually is, of course) simply education - and who can be against the EU sponsoring an education project? But the net effect is also of course stronger, more empowered, democratic groups. Hey, look at what Dag went to do in India, where from what I understood young leaders from Nagaland are brought together and get to acquire new practical skills - its also a great way to make empowered politicians out of what otherwise might become insurgent rebel leaders - and thus eventually helps in pacibly resolving conflicts too.

In Eastern Europe, there's the EU, the Council of Europe, the OCSE and of course the Soros Foundations funding any length of trainings for NGO activists: minority groups, womens groups, whatever - and I dare say it worked. Of course there's been set-backs, but overall the process from communist implosion to EU accession has been quite smooth, and the worst populists have mostly been worked out, with the second wave of that now taking place in the Former Soviet Union.

The trick is not to simply overbearingly come out in public for a specific party and literally funding it; but to just kinda help any democratic-minded group along, help them professionalise and coordinate better, through facilitating these indirect support mechanisms. That way you avoid most of the backlash on "meddling in our affairs", and the parties you sympathise with dont as easily get called EU stooges or something - its much more under the radar. It comes in under the heading of aid and assistance after all, which is reinforced by the support the governments themselves also get from the EU during the accession process - whenever they met one of its requirements. I think the EU has been a lot better at that kind of thing - the carrots and sticks of "soft power" - than the US, in this respect. You still get some backlash of course - Soros sure got his share, he's virulently hated by all the communists and nationalists - but you gotta admit the results have been impressive.

dlowan wrote:
The reaction to regression - hmmm - the torture stuff might not play well from the US - given the outsourcing of torture to Arab allies - and Abu Ghraib etc.

Well, thats where I would be disagreeing with the US line, yes, and making a point on that.

dlowan wrote:
The FA article is suggesting these policies - though clearly not consistently applied - may not be so useful - that the carrot approach may be better - from the west in general...

I think it's the carrot-only strategy that's failed in the Middle East the last decades. In a way I gotta agree with Lash etc. here. It was the all too visible sudden apperance of the stick onto the scene, in the guise of the Iraq war, that seems to have really hit the point home with some of the other states. Whereas before they seemed to be betting that this whole human rights stuff would last their time, as long as they kept the troublesome elements in their country under control for the US and cash in the carrots they got for that. More aggressiveness was definitely called for by now. The only problem now still is that its applied so inconsistently - the Uzbeks get away with what the Syrians are blasted for. That still creates the wrong impression: namely, that you can get away with totalitarinism as long as you make sure not to get on the wrong side of the US in strategical matters. That impression still seriously hampers democratisation, imho.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 11:28 am
nimh wrote:
All the foreign bureaus of Western parties have, too - the SPD's Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, for example.


Instead of writing "BM", a small correction here:

the 'Friedrich Ebert Stiftung' is not a foreign or other bureau of a party (here: the Social Democrats) but a foundation ("stifting" in Dutch, I think):
a non-profit institution propmoting social democracy. (Link )

[Which is certainly linked to the party like those foundation of the other German parties: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Greens), Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung-Stiftung (CDU), Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung (FDP), Hans-Seidel-Stiftung (CSU), Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung (PDS)]
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 11:43 am
Thanks for the correction, Walter; so, not a bureau of the SPD, but a foundation affiliated to the SPD. Allright. We have the same here; each party has affiliated foundations, a scientific foundation for example, and one (or more) on foreign developments - which organises events with parties and organisations of the same political bent in other countries.

Lash wrote:
Speak in a scary manner to those who seek to thwart the spread of democracy (and be ready to back it up)--and help budding democracies, in any way necessary.

What kind of ways would you suggest yourself?

Lash wrote:
The more idealistic among us are sure to jump on the freedom bandwagon NOW--but when China threatens Taiwan--and we start the brinksmanship with China--will you still be behind the spread of democracy?

I'm all for a more assertive position on Taiwan. It should be made clear that China will not get away with occupying Taiwan if the Taiwanese ever decide to break off entirely.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 11:48 am
just an opinion from me with no references, I opine that modernization/democratization of the ME can only be accomplished via the women/wives/mothers thru 2 venues (1) the market place meaing it's the women who run the households, put food on the table, demand electricty, safety in the streets while allowing the men/boys to play army with the US etal who are also playing army all along the lines of political/philosphical empowerment so I say ignore the military issues of insurgancy while directing attention to improving the quality of life for the women/house-holds (2) education-using the market place (literally) foster ideas of public education by appeals to the women/mothers who desire an improved world for their children. This idea of mine does ignore the political manifestations we are currently seeing such as factionism but would see in a short generation real changes in the value structures of the ME. The future of the ME is in the hands of the children and it is the mothers of these children that can bring about change. I don't care if x % of the elected are women, I do care that we empower the children thru the efforts of the mothers.
0 Replies
 
 

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