Feb 262007
 

So much for all the noise about democracy, reform, and good governance. The Bush administration has quietly tucked the file of political reform in the Arab world away. Friendly dictators have nothing to fear. The administration is back to its old ways. What matters in the region is not political change but stability (a euphemism for the preservation of political and military interests), and the flow of oil at the lowest possible prices.

The Bush administration had assumed that its invasion of Iraq would tip the existing balance of powers in the region upside down. Neighbouring Arab regimes would have to comply with American/Israeli dictates, or be ousted and replaced by new more domesticated, more docile “elites”, responsive to Washington’s demands and compatible with its vision for the region. Hand in hand with the heated battles fought by armies on the ground was a cold war waged with the slogans of democracy and reform, and promises of freedom and progress.

The truth is that the Americans were never committed to democracy in the region. To them, it was a convenient instrument for the construction of a new Middle East tailored to fit their strategies. That Anatoly Sharansky, the former Israeli illegal settlements minister who stands to the right of the far right Ariel Sharon, was the inspiration for Bush’s democratisation project is a symptom of the deadly flaw at its core. The American president, though not exactly known for being a voracious reader, is widely reported to have recommended Sharansky’s book to just about everyone he met. He quoted it almost verbatim in the inaugural speech of his second term. The book, he declared, was part of DNA. “If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy,” he told a Washington Post journalist, “read Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy. It’s a great book.”

Three factors underlie the administration’s decision to abandon its much vaunted democratisation project and return to the game of maintaining the status quo, of aiding and abetting “good” dictatorships – a policy to which the US had been firmly committed since the cold war:

1) The occupation of Iraq and toppling of its president did not unleash the era of affluence and prosperity prophesied by Bush and his neocons. Iraq did not exactly turn into the envy of the Arab world. If anything, Iraqis and Arabs found themselves in the unlikely position of lamenting the passing of Saddam’s years, brutal as they were.

2) Ballot boxes became a fearful prospect where the administration’s proteges often found themselves at the bottom of the race, if not outside it altogether. Instead, it was the “hardliners”, the nationalists and Islamists, who are more responsive to the interests, demands and aspirations of their people than to those of the White House, who got the lion’s share of the votes.

This was the case in Egypt, where in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and largest Islamic movement in the Arab world, succeeded in winning approximately one-third of the votes, in spite of the wide violations that mired the process and even though the organisation had confined itself to contesting 144 out of the 454 parliamentary seats to avoid aggravating the government. The same scenario was replicated months later in the Palestinian legislative elections which, much to Washington’s horror, ended up bringing Hamas to power. The Bush administration could take no more. Democracy, it transpired, was not for the likes of those who voted in the Egyptian and Palestinian elections.

“Either you elect the elites and rulers we need, or no democracy, reform, or change for you!”

3) A shift in priorities occurred in Washington. Confronting the Iranian “threat” shot up to the top, while reform sank downwards. Instead of tyrannies and democracies, the region became divided into “moderates” lined up against the “Shia crescent”, and “extremists” favourably disposed to it. Along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, which had until recently been dismissed as a Wahhabi terrorism incubator, found itself rehabilitated and promoted to the ranks of friendly moderates.

In her recent visit to the country, the American secretary of state demanded that the Egyptian government release Ayman Nour, the pro-US leader of the al-Ghad party. Listening to her, one would have thought that Mr Nour was the only political prisoner languishing inside Egypt’s packed jails. In fact, days before the Ms Rice’s visit, the authorities embarked on a renewed wave of mass arrests, targeting prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the non-violent Islamist group that is the country’s strongest opposition force.

It is worth noting that although the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest party affected by the ban, scores of other political forces suffer the same fate: 12 such parties have recently had their licensing requests refused by the Egyptian authorities. In addition, the long-awaited municipal elections were postponed for fear of a repeat of the legislative elections’ outcome, while the state of emergency in force for 26 years was renewed. Yet, with all the repression, corruption and tyranny, Mubarak’s regime was hailed a shining model of moderation.

Two years ago, Ms Rice confessed, without being subjected to sensory deprivation or cross-examination, that the US has been the chief impediment to change in the region.

“By now, it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny for the sake of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy,” she said. “For too many years – 60 to be precise – American presidents were on both sides of the aisle. By the way, Democrats and Republicans were prepared to have a policy of exceptionalism in the Middle East concerning democracy.

“We were prepared to say, well authoritarian regimes are there either because the Middle East, well they don’t really want freedom, or we want stability or any number of reasons that we have. We have not to push the democracy agenda in the Middle East.”

Now that the administration has decided to revert to its old ways in the Middle East, Ms Rice should take the stage once more and say, “We have supported tyranny in the past and we continue to support it today. Forget all the nonsense about democracy, reform, or change. You see, when push comes to shove, our interests must prevail.”

 

First Published in The Guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 February 2007

  21 Responses to “Farewell to democracy”

  1. You could definitely see your skills within the work you write.
    The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    All the time follow your heart.

  2. Ich denke, dass Sie nicht recht sind. Es ich kann beweisen.
    shaheemsn

  3. This cleansing is also for removing soil and oily remains on the skin, outstanding.

    Feel free to surf to my site; best acne spot treatment for
    oily skin (Johanna)

  4. But thanks to sites like Sephora and Amazon, you will get the actual scoop via consumer reviews.

    my web blog :: best acne face wash for oily sensitive skin – Nancy

  5. Under the clouds that linger throughout most of
    the summer upon San Francisco’s Sunset District, there is a little place called Kevin’s Noodle House serving the warmth you just may be missing.

    Under no circumstance may any portion of this article be broadcast, copied, published, rewritten or used without the permission of the
    author. There are large fields inside this place where all
    the necessary cultivation is done using compost, green manure.

    Here is my page … phu quoc day tours

  6. For those traveling to Peru on a Peru vacation, a stopover in Lima is
    often a standard part of your itinerary, no matter what your final destinations
    in Peru may be. Vietnam culinary tours are for all gourmets to enjoy and experience lots of interesting
    info about the nation’s cuisine and dishes that are exclusive and delicious.
    Jens will be responsible for the development of German Department, oversea sales and marketing activities, sales and customer care with Luxury Travel’s business partners in German speaking countries,
    seeking new business opportunities and coordinating the company’s national marketing program.

    Visit my site vietnam restaurants (Nickolas)

  7. Derminax: – eliminates toxins which trigger inflammatory factors to the skin which leads
    towards the blockage of pores as well as acne’s disappearance.

    Also visit my web-site :: acne cream cleanser (Jeanne)

  8. The cathedral still holds mass twice daily and is probably the most famous church in Hanoi.
    If the grains are too coarse the coffee will taste flat; if they
    are too fine the coffee will be bitter and easily burned. The range of hotels that you would see
    here would mesmerize you.

    Feel free to surf to my blog post: hanoi city view hotel

  9. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or
    guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based on the same subjects you
    discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would value your work.

    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

  10. Continuing to travel north-east, you will see a sign to Bãi Sao (the sign is somewhat hidden, around 1
    km away from the main road). The island has a unique species of dogs, the Phú Quốc Ridgeback, which has
    a ridge of hair that runs along its back in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat.
    The natural vegetation of the islands is lowland evergreen forest that is natural with a lot of woods and rare animals.

    Review my weblog vacation in phuquoc – Nicole,

  11. Binarry choices trading is a relative newcomer so far
    as market buying and selling choices are concerned.

    Feel free to visit my web site binary options robot forum

  12. E: You truthfully said, “I was a child with big dreams, I became a man with bigger problems”, are you afraid of ever going back to a dark place.
    They were a group of more than 700 men, separated by walls and spread across geographically
    dispersed prison camps. If you wish to avoid the heat, don’t go in the period from March to June, but rather choose some point between October and February when the temperatures are much lower.

    my homepage … tour to halong bay (Epifania)

  13. Hi my friends, how is everything? Here it is actually good YouTube video lessons collection. i enjoyed a lot.
    abcdefgsn

  14. Through to the 15th century, the port was absorbed into
    the Kingdom of Champa and was known first as Lam Ap and
    later as Faifo. For more than a year, Phuc had been contracted by Ming Hai Ceramics
    Company to drive buffalo carts for tourist. It is also a convenient mid-point to fly to from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, or to catch
    the train.

    Check out my blog hanoi sans souci hotel

  15. It’s best not to book ahead as the lake can be covered in mist in the
    morning. In the north, you will find the charming colonial boulevards
    of Hanoi. Many different ethnic groups such as Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black
    Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere.

    Here is my web site – hanoi tours (hanoitohalongbay.com)

  16. That is really interesting, You are an excessively skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and sit up for in search of more of your great post.
    Also, I have shared your website in my social networks

  17. His films are still hugely popular today and include
    Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Strangers on a
    Train and The 39 Steps. APEC Small business Journey Cards (ABTC) Members from the Asia-Pacific Economical Companies (APEC) new member
    financial systems don’t need the Vietnam Visa for sessions associated with 58
    days and nights at the maximum. Ha Tien, only one hour ferry from Phu Quoc, is a jumping off point for
    Cambodia.

    My weblog … phu quoc island

  18. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or weblog posts on this
    sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this web site.
    Reading this info So i am glad to convey that I’ve a very just right
    uncanny feeling I came upon just what I
    needed. I most certainly will make sure to do not forget this website and provides it a glance regularly.

  19. I like it whenever people come together and share opinions. Great site, stick with it!|

  20. Keep on writing, great job!|

  21. Should you or somebody you realize has delicate hormone-caused pimples,
    acne spot treatment goods may perform great.

    Feel free to visit my web blog best spot acne treatment 2013 (Herman)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.