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October 22, 2007


Saeed Uri

I made a post on my blog about this paper but this version is a little different and sounds a lot better. The introduction to the paper on the Brookings website still includes:

Authoritarianism in the Arab world is not what it used to be. Indeed, it might well be stronger, more flexible, and more resilient than ever, despite the best efforts of the United States, its European Union part­ners, and Arab democrats to bring about sustained and systematic political reform over the past two decades.

I don't know if you want to call it their "best efforts" but that is just my opinion. I know it is a small part of the paper but it stuck with me while I was reading.

Ben P

Ever heard of the Mexican PRI? Sounds very similar.

Indeed, I am of the contention that studying the Latin American experience can be of great benefit as a sort of mirror for those who study the MENA region.

Countries like Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, all share fairly important - and often concealed - similarities with nations that have experience/history of third worldism and secular ideologies - ie Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq.

That said, I don't think a place like Saudi Arabia fits quite so well - it is considerably more a closed society and is some senses sui generis in the global realm - as its ridiculously large petroleum endowment has shaped its developments in ways that are odds with basically any other existing polity.

Ben P

Having read the whole piece now, I think it is very good - I'm going to bookmark it.

that said, I quibble with the lumping together of Latin America and Eastern Europe as "successful" examples of democratization in toto.

I think, really, outside of a couple of states in east-central Europe, the convergence towards "US-approved" norms of governance and development has basically not happened. Either you have essentially chaotic and unstable outcomes where democratic practice at least is somewhat in practice but where a whole host of problems stemming from social breakdown and the deteriorilaztion of the state prove intractable like in much of Latin America, or a return towards a kind of "neo-authoritarianism" - like in Russia, and in much of the ex-Soviet spehre.

The only examples that escape this are places that had pre-existing democratic models that converged with Western European/North American standards - like Chile and Argentina in Latin America, or like the Czech Republic, the Balkan states, or Hungary in Europe. These nations basically had there political cultures interrumpted by events in the 20th century - in other words - nothing went right in these places. Rather unnatural impediments to liberal democracy were removed.

In my mind, I don't thing there has been many successes that the architects of events like the Iraq War imagined there had been. I think this fundamental misreading explains a lot.

Ben P

Saeed -

I agree. My above points are trying to get at this misreading. The US "did" nothing special. In fact, where it was most involved, its net effect was probably detrimental - like in Poland and Russia. The "successes" were not the result of some sort of "end of history" but rather the reversion to deeply embedded, pre-existant practices of governance, not of any magic nation-building formula.

Ben P

And finally!

I don't like the idea that MENA region is seen as some sort of "inexplicable" hold out from broader trends. To think this way means having to have a rather superficial understanding of the nature of "third world" countries in other regions. This is why I think a closer analysis of regions like Latin America would probably benefit Middle East studies types.


"The Arab world is often treated as exceptional in its resistance to democratization"

this reminds me of how the Americans toppled democracies and propped up dictatorships in latin and south america. but what's unique about the arab world is that even as the US backs arab despots, including those it had to overthrow later, like saddam. all the while, American "intellectuals" lament the Arabs' inabilty to transform themselves into democracies.


while the report is good...the writer tries to avoid an incovient truth: USA HAS NEVER CARED ABOUT DEMOCRACY IN OTHER COUNTRIES! Its that simple. why? democracy is incompatible with imperial designs. give the world democracy and the west would find raw materials (congo, siera leon, ME) very xpensive! democracy promotion has always been a facade. only fools have swallowed this. If you doubt this..well read confessions of an economic hitman, freedom next time etc. But u realy have to hooked on CNN,BBC,FOX and the like not to have realised this long time ago. and its no accident, the US decided on this policy right after world war 2.. dont ever hope to get this reality from western writers, institutions and news casts. very few writers have the guts to speak out this incovinient truth

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