Deterring Arab Democracy

The lack of democracy in the Arab world results from an unholy alliance between Western interests and local autocrats, justified by what both sides claim to be the region’s “cultural specificity.” It has been much easier for the West to do business with un-democratic regimes, which have found Western support and recognition useful in marginalizing local democratic forces.

CAMBRIDGE – The lack of democracy in the Arab world results from an unholy alliance between Western interests and local autocrats, justified by what both sides claim to be the region’s “cultural specificity.” In a nutshell, it has been much easier for the West to do business in the post-colonial Middle East with un-democratic regimes, which have found Western support and recognition useful in marginalizing local liberal and democratic forces, even as it paved the way for the rise of Islamist radicalization.

Sticks as well as carrots have been used – by both sides – to maintain this alliance. For example, the Western emphasis on reform and democracy in recent years has been used more often than not as a threat, a typical message being: “Help us in Iraq or we will press for democracy and human rights in your own country.” And the Arab reply is equally threatening: “Stop pressing us on the reform issue or we won’t cooperate in the ‘war on terror’!”

Two other major issues have sustained the trade-off: Israel and the rise of the Islamist movements. The Arab public overwhelmingly regards Israel as an alien and illegitimate entity imposed by force on Palestinian land with Western support. If this perception was channeled democratically and allowed to shape Arab countries’ policies toward Israel, any peace negotiations would be even more complicated than they are now.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/l56VVSh;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.