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What Is To Be Done?

Husain Haqqani offers some sensible suggestions as to how the United States could actually support Arab political reform:

Another practical step could be active U.S. engagement with opposition leaders and parties in Islamic countries. The United States could bolster Egypt's conservative Al Wafd party, the newly formed liberal Al Ghad party, and the Islamic democrats in the officially unrecognized Al Wasat party--as well as the popular civilian parties in Pakistan that Musharraf accuses of misgoverning the country before he took power. Since the days of Iran's shah, authoritarian Muslim rulers have demanded that the United States shun their opposition as the price of their alliance, and the United States has obliged them. Administration officials and diplomats try to avoid high-profile meetings with opposition leaders in Washington and abroad for fear of antagonizing U.S.-friendly dictators. Furthermore, democracy-promotion assistance is almost never extended to political parties or media that might threaten existing regimes. Changing this policy would allow U.S. nongovernmental organizations, such as the National Democratic Institute, to use money from the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide logistical help for political party-building activities similar to those undertaken in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

January 28, 2005 | Permalink


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» Stay Away from the Arab Liberals! from JustinLogan.com
Matt Yglesias wonders whether we shouldn't give some more support and money to liberals in places like Egypt and Pakistan. We should not. [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 28, 2005 7:46:40 PM


Interesting ideas. But to echo others, is there any way to increase the font-size of your block quotes?

Posted by: fnook | Jan 28, 2005 1:38:03 PM

Get it straight--the US has no credibility in the Arab world. As for the rest of the world, outside of Britain, Israel and Australia, the US has zero friends.

Everyone is watching us as we fall apart trying to establish hegemony in the middle east.

This game is just about over...

Posted by: dr. wu | Jan 28, 2005 1:38:58 PM

It's an approach that's proven so sensitive in other parts of the world that I'm afraid it would be of little benefit in a place like Iran. The easiest way to get an NGO booted from a nation with an uneasy relationship with the USA is to provide operational support to opposition parties.

Posted by: Kriston | Jan 28, 2005 1:39:52 PM

Shorter MY: Unless the United States promotes democracy in all ways everywhere, it shouldn't promote it anywhere.

See, now that I've said it, Al doesn't even have to.

Posted by: WeSaferThemHealthier | Jan 28, 2005 1:41:17 PM

Rage on WeSaferThemHealthier. Passionate the non-sequiters are my favorite.

Posted by: fnook | Jan 28, 2005 1:45:23 PM

I don't think Haqqini's ideas are at all practical. They are a way to get pro-democracy heads lopped off for association with Americans.

Posted by: infidel alan | Jan 28, 2005 1:51:16 PM

This strategy would be very successful in Pakistan, although in the short run, it may weaken the support of some democrats and liberals -- meeting with and getting funding from the USA will lead some people to accuse you of being a CIA agent/American plant/enemy of Islam.

But, all that said, there are plenty of people the US could reach out to. GWB regularly meets with opposition party leaders when he visits the UK, Canada, Germany etc, why not meet with opposition party leaders in Pakistan, Egypt, or Jordan?

Posted by: Ikram | Jan 28, 2005 1:56:54 PM

"Sensible"? Really? I think the word you're looking for is "stupid." For example, can you imagine the stink if, say, the Chinese provided large sums of cash to particular political candidates or parties in the U.S.?

Posted by: ostap | Jan 28, 2005 2:32:53 PM

Many or most of the opposition parties oppose their governments because their governments are too complicit with the United States and/or Israel (cf. the Jordanian activist mentioned below). That is the dilemma. I say support moves to more democracy (and trade liberalisation, for that matter) anyway, but it's easy to see why supporting the Ukrainian opposition is more appealing to the State Department than supporting the Egyptian opposition.

Posted by: Otto | Jan 28, 2005 2:35:02 PM

Sounds like the sort of thing George Soros has been doing all over the world for...oh...25 years or so.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jan 28, 2005 2:51:09 PM

Why should the US government antagonize US-friendly dictators? This would be silly. The US voters would have to fire this (hypothetical) silly government.

Those US politicians who care a lot about democracy in foreign countries should resign and go work for Mr. Soros or some international organization.

Posted by: abb1 | Jan 28, 2005 3:06:24 PM

"For example, can you imagine the stink if, say, the Chinese provided large sums of cash to particular political candidates or parties in the U.S.?"

I thought the Chinese do just that.

Posted by: Otto | Jan 28, 2005 3:23:43 PM

See, now that I've said it, Al doesn't even have to.

No, I don't think that's quite right. Your "shorter" applies when Matthew says, in effect, "Bush says he wants to promote democracy and freedom, but he's not doing so in XYZ Situation, so Bush is a hypocrite."

But that's not what Matthew is saying here. He is saying, here, "In XYZ Situation, Bush could promote democracy." I think it is slightly different, because it is absent the "If Bush doesn't do this, he is a hypocrite" part.

Posted by: Al | Jan 28, 2005 3:36:00 PM

Husain Haqqani offers some sensible suggestions as to how the United States could actually support Arab political reform

If only that were our goal. But of course it isn't. Our goal is compliant regimes and stability in the region, thus ensuring the free flow of oil.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Jan 28, 2005 3:43:10 PM

What exactly do words like "bolster", "engage with", etc. mean in this context?

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Jan 28, 2005 5:23:37 PM

The best way for the U.S. to promote political reform in the Middle East is to stay out of the Middle East's business, and take care of its own problems.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 28, 2005 10:07:24 PM

It seems to me that if the U.S. took this tack--and btw who says it doesn't, to an extent, anyway?--the Left would scream bloody murder about our meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.

The best way to get rid of dictators is to have them clearly understand that their regimes have no future. The British victory in the 1982 Falklands war prompted the exit of Argentina's junta. This arguably did as much as Reagan's anti-communist policies in Central America to foster the spread of democracy in Latin America through the rest of the 80s and 90s. (Of course the Left screamed bloody murder about that too, but nevermind them for the moment.)

Obviously any nation must pick its clients along with its fights with care. Neither our purse nor our armory is bottomless. The best thing is for societies to transform themselves. This is not possible in totalitarian regimes at high tide, like Stalinist Russia, Castro's Cuba or Baathist Iraq. But the best we can do, as friends to liberty around the world, is to simply watch for opportunities. There's probably no more sophisticated formula which would be workable than that.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector | Jan 29, 2005 12:23:30 PM

Hmm, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss this issue for two reasons:

(1) I currently live in the Arab world, in the United Arab Emirates; and
(2) I was born in Argentina - this relates to the comment from the modestly self-named "Sanity Inspector."

I think that Americans tend to overestimate how much resentment and anger there is among Arabs toward their governments (Iraq being a rather notable exception). Sure, these countries are, as a whole, much less liberal than Americans would like, but the portrayal of the Arab people as hyper angery and oppossed just isn't true. In truth, they're more comfortable with authority than much of the world. They are much more likely to follow Singapore as a model for economic and social development than the US. I don't mean to minimize the problems confronting some Arab countries, but in general, people are content with their governments. Sure, these governments could be better, and the people do complain, but they do NOT want outsiders to come in and change things. I highly doubt that any Democrats, except the most extreme, in the US would want an outside military power to overthrow Bush, even among those who can't stand him and believe he stole the 2000 election.

And regarding Argentina and the Malvinas war - the difficult truth confronting a liberal democrat (in the sense of supporting liberal democracy) in Latin America is that, for all her obnoxious rhetoric and BS, Thatcher definately advanced the cause of democracy in Argentina. The only thing that the Junta had going for it, while in power, was the "security" card. Their war on terrorism, which encompassed basicly anyone with left-leaning ideas or extreme right wingers unsufficiently committed to killing their left-leaning fellow citizens, was a horror difficult to comprehend. The Junta were totally inept in every area of government, except, they claimed, "Security," and that was why they ran the show. Well, when the Junta failed in the war for the Malvinas, their support collapsed - what good is a military dictatorship if they can't even do the military stuff right? The Junta would have probably fallen eventually anyway, but the UK caused it to happen much more quickly.

I don't think that the Argentina Malvinas example ought to provide succor to the Neocons who believe in the transformative power of military intervention - one successful example does not prove their case, especially when measured the considerable list of failures of military adventurism. But the example should demonstrate to liberal democrats that force should not be dismissed out-of-hand, and can often advance our agenda.

Posted by: SZ | Jan 30, 2005 7:33:26 AM

hi friends I was roaming around and came up with your comments
My name is Kursad and I am from Turkey
I want to ask a question to you
What is the "actual" reason behind the US support of democracy around the world?
I would be gald if you share your amicable opinions with me.

Posted by: Kursad | Feb 17, 2006 7:19:17 AM

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