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November 17, 2008

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ash-shakkak

Well said, sir. Agree that there's no indication the clashes at the Ghad Party were in anyway related to the US elections, and also regret Diehl's (and others') reduction of Egyptian reformers to Ayman Nour. But appreciate his sentiment.

Looking forward to your roundup of Middle Eastern punditification on Obama.

Ali

Marc,
I think Mr.Diehl is right in his prediction of the Obama administration abandoning Bush's freedom agenda, especially after what we’ve seen its end results in the Palestinian elections.

If the Egyptian regime gives in to the U.S. demands by holding free and fair elections, most likely we will see the Muslim Brotherhood forming the new government. The question then: will the U.S. be willing to deal with an Islamic government that does not recognize Israel and opposes U.S. policies? Or will the U.S. isolate the new government and impose an economic and political blockade on 80 million Egyptians to punish them for their democratic choice?

Don’t you think that this paradox in our foreign policy undermines our credibility to play any effective role in the future of democratization in the Middle East?

I have listened to almost all of Obama's major speeches and I never heard him mentioning anything about democracy promotion in the ME, or any plans to do so (please correct me if I am wrong. Even on the his campaign website, Obama's vision for the ME is focused on the peace process between Israel and Palestinians,War in Iraq, and Iran's nuclear program. So, democracy promotion is not on Obama's short term plans to protect U.S. interests in the ME.

You've asked Mr. Diehl of evidence to substantiate his conclusion that "Mubarak and other "pro-Western" autocrats seem to have drawn from Obama's election: that the threat of U.S. pressure for political liberalization has passed", but I am wondering if you can prove him wrong!

Mr. Diehl has every reason to believe that the Democrats’' policies will be more along the line of "stability and security outweighs democracy", except that the sum will be zero, as we've learned on 9/11.

jonst

Marc,

I do not think the US govt has the expertize to discern what is the 'right' course to "support Arab... popular democratic aspirations". To the extent the expertize exists, it is ignored, at best, ridiculed and pushed aside, professionally, at worst. They don't have much chance against the corporate and military interests that dictate policy in the US.

Zathras

I wasn't clear myself on what Diehl was talking about. No snark intended here, really, but the whole premise that the absence of democracy in Arab countries has nothing to do with Arab political culture and everything to do with malevolent or simply mistaken American foreign policy is hard enough for me to get my mind around. The additional complication introduced by the idea that the departure from the scene of President Bush and his big empty talk about freedom represents some kind of crisis for aspiring Middle Eastern democrats doesn't register at all with me.

I do not know what an Obama administration will do about the Middle East. I expect that the domestic politics of Middle Eastern countries, with the unfortunate exception of Iraq, will start out rather far down on its list of things to attend to, and fervently hope that its interest in that subject will be tempered by the imperative we face now to become less rather than more deeply involved in the political evolution of the region. Certainly this does not exclude incremental steps to publicly dissociate the American government from specific actions taken by Arab governments that are far outside the pale of civilized behavior. However, the raising of expectations we are unable to fulfill is never a good idea; it was not in this case, and should be carefully avoided by the incoming administration.

Guardian reading liberal

The most recent Zogby poll of Arab opinion demonstrated yet again that negative attitudes to the US are overwhelming related to its policies on Israel/Palestine and the invasion of Iraq. I don't know why you continue to ignore this evidence and instead talk about Arab democratisation as the key to promoting America's image. Although, to be fair, I would concede that it must be politically awkward to get up in front of congressmen and administration officials and tell them that its the Israel lobby that's the problem: that'll do nobody's career any favours.

Ambika

Granted that there is still a lot of negative attitudes against the US in the region and elsewhere, the election of Obama has ushered in a new sense of hope, which is something that most people need. I realize that that sounds highly idealistic, but if Obama can bring about something new and change the direction of America's absymal track record, which will turn into positive effects in other countries, then why not celebrate his victory. People like Ayman Noor are very important to any democratic process, and need support not only from top level leaders from around the world but also from local people.

JJackson

Bush was all rhetoric and no substance on the democracy front. I hope Obama will observe the behaviour of all regimes and offer help and support to those that do not oppress their citizens, their press or their political opposition. The most important route to democracy is a free judiciary if the people can not trust they will get a fair hearing if they have a grievance against the police army or other manifestations of the government then everything else is a waste of time. The US - not just under Bush - has had a habit of picking a bete noir (formally communism now Islam) and ignoring the crimes of the likes of Pinochet, Noriega and Saddam while they were deemed useful. Saudi Arabia, Egypt & Israel good - Iran, Syria & Palestinians bad. Although I could make an equally strong case for the other-way around. It is the criminal disregard for the consequences of its meddling for which the US is most despised - at least by me. The humanitarian disaster in Somalia and the Ogden caused by the callous green lighting of Ethiopia's Somalia adventure, in the hope of trapping a few suspects in the Nairobi bombing, was beyond the pail. It was entirely predictable that the any government imposed with Ethiopian fire-power would be fought to the death. That the UIC would become more rather than less radical was also a given as was the destruction of the most stable period in decades. The piracy is another not unexpected consequence - although I have been surprised by the scale of it. In short if this government is to raise the US at all in the eyes of the rest of the world it will need to stop telling everyone to be democratic and employ a carrot & stick diplomacy that has some connection to the reality of the behaviour of the parties it deems friends and those that are not getting Christmas cards. What Israel is doing to the civilian population of the Gaza-Bantu is a war crime and were it being perpetrated by the Iranians on some grouping within its boarders the US would be apoplectic at the injustice and saddling up the Abrahams.

bb

Surely Obama will not be throwing away the democracy agenda for the Middle East created by Bush in response to 9/11 that overnight reversed decades of Kissinger cynical-realism?

Will Obama and Clinton in office see it as in US interests for the new Iraq representive democracy, however imperfect, to go down the tubes and revert to a dictatorship via a coup?

And this after the neighbouring (Sunni) Arab states have now formally recognised a government in Iraq elected via a genuinely representative electoral system - the first in the arab ME?

After all, Iraq is the country which so far fulfills four of your requirements: ie "freedom of speech, of assembly, of the press; free and fair elections;". So one could anticipate that Obama/Clinton will be working to strengthn the last two, "judicial independence and the rule of law; human rights", in Iraq in order to give hope to the nascent democracy movements in the rest of the region?

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