Nov 20 2003

Conditions for a successful Mideast Democracy

Published by at 11:16 am under Articles,US-Middle East

Behind much of the recent anti-American statements and comment many Arabs are genuinely hoping for US President Bush to succeed in his vision for a more democratic Middle East. Nevertheless there are many reasons for this high level of scientism. US foreign policy in general and American policy towards the Middle East in particular has not shown consistency in this department. On the contrary American foreign policy is often the opposite of the democratic values that Americans espouse and enjoy within the continental USA.
There is no doubt about the sincere yearning of Arabs for democracy. Many really believe that this is the only way for the Arab nation to dig itself out of the darkness and backwardness it finds itself these days. While Arab democrats would have liked to see their dream of a flourishing democracy succeed in their region, they are resigned to the fact that they are unable to do this without outside help. Arabs want the US to succeed in its pursuit because they realize that it might only be through this way and through such a super power that genuine political change can take place.

Unfortunately, however, the US is unlikely to succeed if it doesn’t pursue a much different foreign policy than the one it has been following in the last century. Three basic conditions are necessary for the US to beat the odds and succeed in this part of the world.

First, America must not deviate from the principles of democracy no matter what. Like the people of Basra who revolted against Saddam in 1991 to find the US abandoning them and leaving them prey to the ruthless Iraqi regime, part of the skeptics comes from the fear that the US will not stay the course. America has repeatedly allied itself with dictators around the world and in the Middle East for its own narrow interests. Genuine Arab democrats are afraid to publicly support the US only to find that America will abandon them when it is no longer politically feasible. Democracy must be a long-term principled strategy not a short-term expediency.

Secondly, the US must avoid being or appearing to be opposed to a certain ideology or party. If democracy means the rule of the people by the people, the wishes of the Arabs, must be respected regardless of whether the majority’s opinions are pleasing to America or not. America can and must insist that democracy is incompatible with dictatorships that use violence to rule. Nor should American agree to one party regimes. But free and fair elections, a main tenant in democracy could produce an Islamic government or even Arab nationalists Baathists. Will Washington accept such a result or will the US democracy include vetoes on certain ideologies or parties. How can the US explain its position of refusing to deal with a duly elected leader like Yasir Arafat simply because one of its allies wishes it to do so.

Thirdly, Washington must take an evenhanded approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The reality of America’s unashamed bias with an oppressive occupation regime has provided America’s opponents with powerful proof that it is not a country that is committed to real democracy and self-determination for the peoples of the world. How can the 300 million Arabs believe President Bush in his vision for a democratic Middle East when his representatives continuously vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli repression against Palestinians. The Israelization of the Bush Administration has taken the air out of any US attempts to preach democracy to the peoples of this region.

America is a wonderful free country, which is the envy of the world. Many Arabs would love to see their countries implement genuine parliamentary elections, the separation of powers, respect an independent judiciary and witness the rule of law in a country that permits a genuinely free press. For such a dream to take place it is not enough for Americans to point to their own model, it is necessary for Arabs to see democracy practiced by America throughout the world.

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