Friday, October 19, 2007

Promoting Arab Democracy (or Not): What the Past Should Tell Us about the Future (Part I)

by J. Scott Carpenter from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The issue of democratization in Arab countries will persist regardless of who is the next U.S. president. For policymakers, therefore, the question has become one of tactics, not strategy. If the United States gives up on the democracy agenda, it will be forced to choose between increasingly decrepit autocrats and antidemocratic Islamists. Such a decision would also undermine U.S. credibility among those who have begun to trust the United States. Washington needs partners in the battle of ideas, and if those who are willing to fight do not believe that America stands by what it says, they will give up. Finally, abandoning democracy promotion would be the equivalent of waving the white flag in the battle of ideas. Holding up a standard of managed autocracy is not motivational -- sooner or later people will demand real change. Hopefully, the United States will be on the right side of history when that change occurs.

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