Does Mideast Democracy Complicate Diplomacy? – Room for Debate –

Your take?  Would the Middle East have been easier for US relations if it had stayed as a manageable dictatorship?

The United States helped the Libyan people overthrow the repressive Qaddafi regime and institute a nascent democracy. But the murder of the United States ambassador and three other officials shows that in Libya, as elsewhere around the world, freedom can unleash ugly forces that are hard to control, even where there is a pro-Western government and pro-American elements, as in Libya. Can the United States stay engaged with modern democratic Middle Eastern countries that have sizable anti-Western populations?

via Does Mideast Democracy Complicate Diplomacy? – Room for Debate –


10 thoughts on “Does Mideast Democracy Complicate Diplomacy? – Room for Debate –”

  1. “After all, democracy is a very difficult, fragile form of government. For it to work all sides need to do the impossible; they need to listen and dialogue with each other even when they disagree with each other and work out a consensus of the best ideas for running their governments and societies for the benefit of all rather than the few.”
    The problem with Libya, and the rest of the Middle East is they tried to shortcut the route to Democracy, while the US forced its form of Democracy on them as if one size fits all. If the countries of the middle east are to establish a sound government they need to do what the US did. That is to have a group of men who only have the best intentions for their country to voluntarily meet and establish the framework for their country, just as the founding fathers did in the constitutional convention. Then, following the ratification of the constitution the US established the policy of Isolationism in order the make them more self-reliant. The Revolution in the United States did not give us sustainability or a sound a government, yet for some reason the Middle East has the crazy idea that it did. All that happens when they revolt is they kill their tyrant and vote in another tyrant. If they want freedom they have to do it the right way. Stop the killing, and start the talking.

  2. It’s a great question. I tend to agree with what a ny times writer said in the article I am posting the link to. Each nation and leader in the Middle East and Africa have different sentiments towards the U.S. at this point in time; what we need to do is stay in very intimate relations with those countries that support us and involve ourselves more cautiously with those who don’t. We can’t generalize our diplomacy in the region itself unless the region is generalized, and it most definitely is not.

  3. I think this is a good thing to discuss because it makes us talk about what out actual goal is in the Middle East. I do agree that each country is different but are we more concerned with stability or democracy? This article talks about concerns with America’s overall middle east policy.

  4. I wonder if it is because of our recent past — with interactions between Soviet Communism and American Democracy — that we (Americans) today might find it tempting to assume that all democracies in the world are friendly towards us. We see ourselves as the paragon of democratic values and a democratic society, and thus may find ourselves believing that everybody is aspiring to be us, to be “America”. But in light of these recent attacks in the Middle East, we are glimpsing an odd — and maybe unfamiliar — world where “the USA and its values” aren’t uniquely synonymous with “democracy”. Maybe the Middle East really is trying to communicate to the rest of us that they aren’t American and that they don’t want to be.

    I enjoyed this opinion by Aaron Y. Zelin in which he advocates a cautious approach to interacting with Middle Eastern democracies because of the the unique and unfamiliar voices that are starting to be heard there.

  5. This is definitely one of the hardest questions to answer for the leaders of the United States. However, showing apathy toward those states in the middle east would not work either. The United States cannot be afraid of being diplomatically active in these countries. If the US sits back and does nothing to improve the relationship, it will not get better.

    I agree that the diplomacy may lead to negative effects if done improperly. But over time, the effort of improving our diplomacy with the middle eastern countries will have an effect. China is a great example of this. Fifty years ago, the relationship with China was not very stable by any means. However, through Ping Pong diplomacy, and efforts by the Nixon administration, the relations with China and the US have greatly improved. The United States needs to find a way to get involved with the Middle Eastern countries and needs to be diplomatically involved, whether democratic or dictatorship. The diplomacy will be difficult either way

  6. This was an interesting concept that I have already thought of myself for some time. When we encourage other nations to form democracies, we need to accept that this will create a government that is built upon the wishes and desires and needs of a people. We need to accept that the new government may not look kindly on our nation, even though we are both democracies. We cannot expect every nation to give us respect and bend to our will. If the majority of people don’t want America’s influence, then that will be what happens. We cannot be surprised that creating an open, democratic government would make unfavorable moves for ourselves. Perhaps we need to show a little respect towards them instead of trying to push for a second America in the Middle East. Respect their wishes and show them that we are friends, not enemies. Understandably, most of the tension is due to radical Islamic groups but that doesn’t mean that we can’t show them that we aren’t what they think we are. By responding with fire to fire, we just make a bigger mess and confirm their suspicions. For further reading, I recommend Tessler’s article about Islam’s effects on democracy, which I have put in a link below.

  7. What has been really interesting to see in this situation that in really sets it apart from others is the fact that the government and the public in general have, in fact, sympathized with the US in the aftermath since the attack in Libya. The newly elected governments in both Libya and Egypt have arrested those responsible, and many people in Benghazi demonstrated, carrying signs with messages of apology and a desire for peace. Really, this conflict is between extremist minorities with in both the US and the Middle East who aren’t accurate representations of the public as a whole; it is important to recognize this in resolving this conflict.

  8. Democracy is not just about having elections; it’s a change of beliefs, ideals, and thought in the mindsets of the people. Imposing democratic measures through military means just isn’t right; you can’t impose democracy by force. It requires a much more extensive evolution within the hearts and minds of the people about to take the reins of the government. They need to believe it, feel it. We cant go in and topple regimes and institute democracy, a concept entirely foreign to them. It will not work that way. Democracy works best when it is “home grown.” The state needs a degree of wealth, the people need an adequate level of education, and the culture needs to permit democracy to function.
    While a lot of liberalist thought trends toward promoting democracy, I tend to side with a more realist approach on how to do so. The U.S. shouldn’t take a “hard-headed” approach and push for democracy in areas opposed or unprepared for a true democracy. Instead, it should pursue stability. If promoting democracy causes turmoil and warfare, abandon such plans. What is the point Of course, this is within bounds. Historically, the U.S. has favored stability over democracy; however, there have been conflicts which have risen due to such an approach, which I realize. I understand that keeping to the ‘status-quo’ can alienate dictatorships and can increase security threats in the future. Nonetheless, I purport that the world is going to be rainy and muddy, figuratively speaking, half the time anyways — deal with it. While we can (and should) persuade and educate states towards democracy, we should never coerce or force. If a state is not ready for democracy yet, don’t waltz in and impose you “superior” ideals/methods on the people. Deal with the situation at hand and work on influencing diplomacy in the area. Otherwise, democracy will indeed complicate diplomacy in the Middle East.

    See Robert Cooper’s article “Military Occupation is Not the Road to Democracy.”

  9. Democracy, for Americans, carries a positive connotation, whereas the word “dictatorship” has a very negative one. The fact is that, in practice, either of the two can work against the freedom and safety of the people governed. Just because a country has a democracy doesn’t mean that the country has a “good” government, simply one that is elected. In the case of these protests, riots, and terror attacks, and in light of the Arab Spring, I think we see the painful and protracted progression of the development of democratic institutions. Most of you touched on the concept in your previous comments, democracy takes time and effort to blossom, and the people of each country are responsible for developing their own, adapted form of government. President Bush once said something to the effect of “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to mankind.” Despite that, America has repeatedly tried to “give” freedom by essentially imposing democracy in regions of instability. While many, if not most, people from around the world like the idea of people-directed government, each nation must earn democracy for itself, so that no one can say it was imposed upon them. We should do everything we can to help those who want to develope democracy, but must also accept the fact that it will take time, and we must be ready for years of relative instability in nations seeking democratic forms of government even after they begin to take root.

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