In an op-ed for the Washington Post‘s Democracy Post on March 15, 2018, “Tunisia is one of the Arab world’s biggest success stories. The Trump administration doesn’t seem to care,” Deputy Director for Policy Andrew Miller argues that it is important for the Trump administration to show its support for Tunisian democracy by not following through on its plan to slash aid to the country.
For the second consecutive year, President Trump has proposed a substantial cut in U.S. assistance to Tunisia, the sole democratizing country in the Middle East and North Africa. Slashing aid by more than half, from $185.4 million to about $80 million, would send a clear message: Trump could care less about Tunisia. To be fair, in the past year Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Tunisia “an important partner” and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said the United States is “proud to support [Tunisia’s] efforts to improve security, develop democratic institutions and practices and foster economic growth.” But, rhetorical flourishes aside, money talks in Washington, even more so since Trump became president.
It’s not entirely a surprise that Trump dismisses Tunisia’s importance. Tunisia lacks many of the qualities that tend to appeal to Trump: domestic political salience (Israel), vast wealth (Saudi Arabia) and alleged counterterrorism cooperation (Egypt). The Obama administration’s hailing of Tunisia as the only Arab Spring success story may be a detriment in the eyes of Trump, who has openly declared his affinity for dictators.
But you don’t have to be a starry-eyed idealist to understand why a democratic Tunisia is hugely important for U.S. interests…
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