Perceptions of U.S. Democracy Promotion: Middle Eastern and American Views
By David DeBartolo
Project on Middle East Democracy Report, May 2008.
Full Text (PDF):
Summary of Part One: Middle Eastern Views
Though Middle Easterners desire democracy and seek to reform their own political systems, public opinion data show that they are also unhappy with American democracy promotion efforts, and that they believe the U.S. does not genuinely and consistenly support democratic reform. Analysis of this polling data suggests that the U.S. needs to seriously reassess its impact on political reform in the region. This paper concludes that:
- The U.S. should be consistent in supporting democracy, both within each country and across the region.
- The U.S. should acknowledge that peaceful means are the only legitimate methods of supporting democracy abroad.
- The U.S. should accept democratic outcomes and engage democratically elected governments.
Summary of Part Two: American Views
U.S. public opinion on democracy promotion has generally tracked the Bush administration’s swing from rhetorically supporting democratic reform in the Middle East after Sept. 11 to bolstering undemocratic “moderates” today. Nevertheless, there are enduring legacies from the post-Sept. 11 democracy promotion consensus: Americans still believe that democracy can work in Muslim countries, and they are receptive to narrow, targeted, non-confrontational policies that indirectly support political reform. This paper concludes that:
- American rhetoric should focus on specific policies that support the development of democracy in the Middle East.
- American efforts to support democracy abroad should be explicitly framed as peaceful and non-military.
- The case must be made to the American public that U.S. isolationism is not an option.
About the Author:
David DeBartolo is Director of Dialogue Programs for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). As a Fulbright Fellow for 2006-7 in Jordan, he researched the Iraq war’s impact on economic growth and inflation in Jordan. DeBartolo is a joint J.D. / M.A. in Arab Studies candidate at Georgetown University, where in 2005 he received the Oxtoby Prize. After graduating in 2003 from Harvard University, where he was editorial chair of The Harvard Crimson, DeBartolo worked on Palestinian political party development in East Jerusalem and Ramallah for the National Democratic Institute. He also worked for Amideast, teaching English to Palestinian scholarship recipients, as well as for Dr. Marwan Awartani of Birzeit University. In 2002, he attended the Anti-Defamation League’s Finkelstein Memorial Study Mission to Israel for college journalists and he later spoke at the ADL’s national convention.