[Mb-civic] FW: Flagging winds of American idealism across the
grgolsorkhi at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 15 07:13:15 PST 2004
------ Forwarded Message
From: Shahla Samii <shahla at thesamiis.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 23:04:52 -0500
Subject: Flagging winds of American idealism across the Middle East
from the December 15, 2004 edition -
Flagging winds of American idealism across the Middle East
By Ray Takeyh and Nikolas Gvosdev
WASHINGTON - What a change two years have brought to the Bush
administration's "forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East."
After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, Ken Adelman, a member of the
Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, expressed his hope that it "emboldens
leaders to drastic, not measured, approaches."
But now the long, hard slog in Iraq has tempered American enthusiasm
for promoting massive revolutionary change in the greater Middle East.
The significantly scaled-back administration hope was recently
characterized this way by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:
"What you would hope is that governments can be encouraged on a path of
Washington has concluded that it is in no position to alienate existing
regimes whose support it needs in pursuit of stability in Iraq,
combating terrorism, and reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process. The Arab kings and presidents-for-life who, 20 months ago,
were excoriated as the biggest impediments to reform are now being
embraced as agents of change.
The new approach was in full view at the Forum for the Future in
Morocco last weekend, as Secretary of State Colin Powell met with 20
Arab counterparts to discuss democracy promotion efforts. In a dramatic
retreat from previous grandiose claims, Washington is now concentrating
on provision of technical and economic assistance, such as funds for
small business development, microcredit aid to entrepreneurs, and a
host of educational programs. Literacy campaigns and conferences on
women's rights and the environment are to lead the region into a new
At core, the basic assumption of the Bush team seems to be that the
regional elites are anxious to promote structural economic reforms but
simply lack the know-how.
The problem in the Arab world isn't lack of capital - certainly not in
a region flush with energy income. Nor is the Arab world lacking the
expertise to pursue reform. The 2003 UN Arab Human Development Report,
compiled by leading Arab thinkers, pinpointed poor governance as the
main source of the region's woes. The solutions they proposed have been
left unimplemented because there is no will to pursue them, not because
of a lack of trained personnel. The problem remains the entrenched
elite who are determined to retain power and will neuter any reform
effort before it encroaches on their prerogatives.
Genuine economic reform involves creation of a system based on the rule
of law, with an independent judiciary prepared to enforce contracts and
respect property rights - something that strikes at the heart of the
crony system defining most Middle East economies. Real change would
entail an end to official corruption and require the state to
relinquish its most important lever for controlling society - its
ability to subsidize consumer goods and offer deals to reliable,
connected regime loyalists. Moreover, given these regimes' lack of
political legitimacy, they're reluctant to undertake deep-seated
economic reforms that initially may provoke domestic unrest.
This is why Egypt and Algeria experimented with limited privatization
measures in the early 1990s - only to abandon them quickly when it
became clear that the political foundations of their regimes would be
undermined by such reforms.
The economic model for reform can only work if the US and Europe
pressure these states toward viable change, and not remain content with
a series of small-scale programs. Preferential trade agreements,
foreign assistance, and access to US markets should be contingent on
progress made toward meaningful reform. The US experience with Latin
America - especially Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s - and that of
the EU toward its eastern periphery, makes it clear that when political
reform is linked to economic benefits, regimes can be induced to
introduce changes that lay the basis for democratic transformation.
The West should link aid to reforms designed to reduce state controls
over both political life and economy.
Following the fall of Baghdad, neoconservatives predicted that regime
change in Iraq would unleash a tide of democratization that would not
only wash over America's regional foes like Iran and Syria, but force
even erstwhile allies like President Mubarak in Egypt and the princely
class in the Gulf to embrace reforms. Now, Mr. Powell claims victory
when Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are willing to take
part in a conference like the weekend's forum.
The 9/11 attacks demonstrated that the root cause of Islamist terrorism
was a dysfunctional political order that succeeded only in producing
unpalatable dictatorships, stagnant economies, and militant ideologies.
For a brief moment, the administration was transfixed by a vision of
using US power to remake the Middle East. But a crestfallen America
entangled in Iraq seems to have abandoned its idealistic aspirations to
the point that it now favors working with the same unsavory regimes
that promise the chimera of stability.
Ray Takeyh is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and
Nikolas Gvosdev is a senior fellow at the Nixon Center.
Full HTML version of this story which may include photos, graphics, and
www.csmonitor.com | Copyright © 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All
For permission to reprint/republish this article, please email
------ End of Forwarded Message
More information about the Mb-civic