Thursday, May 26, 2005

Democracy: Rising Tide or Mirage? :: Middle East Policy Council

Some teasers:

o "The Arab Human Development Report is a very remarkable document for two reasons: one is that it represents the most wholehearted embrace of the concept of liberal democracy that I have seen coming out of the similar document. It even represents a change over previous documents because one of the most remarkable things to me is that the report goes through one by one some of the arguments that have been historically used to - by Arabs to argue Arab intellectual - to argue why is it that democracy is not suitable for the Arab world. And what the report does, it refutes them one by one, so that it really comes out in the end with a wholehearted embrace of the concept of liberal democracy."

o "the second issue, which has bothered me for a long time, and I hope all the panelists will in due course offered opinions on it, is whether in fact democracy is possible in a rentier state. If you consider the history of democracy in the West, the mother of parliaments, the British House of Commons was convened by the king because he required money."

o "The stalled metaphor doesn't really capture what's going on. A tremendous amount of change has happened in the decade since Jordan and Yemen both initiated openings and didn't really push them very far. So I wanted to use those cases as an example."

o "I do public opinion polls in largely in six Arab countries that include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. And ... as of 2004 when you ask people ... in those six countries: do you believe that the Middle East is more democratic or less democratic than it was before the Iraq War? The vast majority of people in every country believe the Middle East had become less democratic than it was before the Iraq War....why is that the public perception, certainly part of it is probably psychological. I mean you've had 90 percent of the people really oppose the war and it's very hard to then come back and say, well, something good came out of it....But in the reality I think there's something objective that they're seeing that transpired....Arab governments had to make a strategic decision whether they support the U.S. or not support the U.S, and they made a strategic decision generally to support the U.S. and in the process they became far more insecure; they preempted organizations, they arrested, they limited the freedom of speech and in the case of Egypt, extended emergency law on the eve of the Iraq War."

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