How and Why the U.S. Should Promote Democracy in the Arab World

While encouraging the spread of liberal democracy was long a key component of American foreign policy, both the Republican and Democratic parties now seem reluctant to engage in that pursuit. Elliott Abrams argues that it is very much in the nation’s interest to foster gradual steps away from despotism in the Arab world, and proposes how it can be done soberly and effectively:

Islamic extremism is an idea, and while it cannot be defeated without arms, it cannot be defeated by arms alone. A better idea, democracy, is a formidable and necessary weapon. . . .

U.S. support for repressive and illegitimate regimes . . . risks further alienating Arab populations, who may see the United States as indifferent or hostile to their desires for less corrupt and repressive governance. Moreover, Arab democrats are usually pro-Western and reliable allies for the United States when they enter political office. Washington always has difficulty sustaining close relationships with repressive regimes. . . . Uncritical support for them is not a realistic policy.

American policy should [also] reflect the United States’ own political beliefs: the goal is not merely democracy in the narrow sense of winner-take-all elections. The U.S. Constitution instead establishes a system of institutional restrictions on government power that guarantees minority rights and the rule of law. . . .

Realism requires an understanding of the role of legitimacy in sustaining regimes. Even the Arab monarchies depend on legitimacy, which they derive from some partnership between the rulers and the ruled. There are many ways the United States can address legitimacy issues, ranging from strengthening the role of elected, if not very powerful, parliaments in several states to reducing corruption, reducing poverty, and relying on law rather than wasta (clout or connections) to determine citizens’ relationships with their governments. Even in countries where there are no political parties and there is little political life, the United States can still promote relations between ruler and ruled that are more just—and may open a path toward stable democracy.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab democracy, Islamism, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion