The different views of democracy between the U.S, and its allies in the Middle East

There are many surprising paradoxes and analyzes that must be stopped when analyzing the American democracy summit, chief among which is the inclusion of the “International Institute for Democracy and Election Aid” in November 2021 of the United States of America for the first time in the list of “regressing democracies”. For this, there are several reasons, most notably: the spread of racism within American society, the famous incident of the killing of the black American citizen “George Floyd” by a white policeman in front of the eyes of citizens, which also reminds us of (the political polarization situation of the Democratic and Republican parties and the division of American society), and the growing suspicions of the former President “Trump” and his supporters about the results of the presidential elections in 2020, which led to the storming of “Trump” supporters to the US Congress building, in addition to the violent international reaction towards the United States of America, given this random and unplanned withdrawal from Afghanistan, and what resulted in it with the human rights violations, and the fall of Afghan citizens stranded in planes at Kabul airport, after the “Taliban movement” took control of the government, and the occurrence of (a state of great political vacuum and unprecedented internal and regional chaos in the region surrounding Afghanistan and the world).

   The United States of America led (the agenda of rehabilitating the Arab and Islamic world within the so-called Greater Middle East Project through political, economic and social reform, through an interventionist policy based on focusing on the internal conditions of Arab countries). Particular focus began on linking extremism and violence with the lack of political freedoms, education levels, human rights and women’s liberation.  Here, we can follow the monitoring of American and Western research centers and my academic personal analysis of the content of the words and political speeches of the successive American administrations of American presidents, concerning the Middle East, its topics and agenda, and the marketing of concepts, such as: (political reform, civil society, freedoms, human rights, democracy, equality, women’s liberation)…etc. There is no doubt that these results reflect an unprecedented American intervention to reshape the region according to American foundations to pass the “Greater Middle East Project and Preserve Israel’s Security” which had to redraw and reshape the region according to new foundations that suit American interests in the countries of the region, and thus guarantee the interests of its ally of Israel.

Accordingly, we find that there are differences between the American vision of bringing about democratic change in the Middle East, which basically did not receive a general consensus within the United States of America itself, but rather came as an expression of one direction, which is (that direction which sees that the absence of democracy in the region will contribute to basically in creating an environment conducive to the growth of extremism, violence and terrorism), and thus eliminating these phenomena depends in large part on spreading and strengthening democracy in the countries of this region, a trend that found its supporters from the conservative right in the American administration.

    On the other hand, there are other trends that have a different viewpoint from the previous trend, and among these trends is the trend that sees (the holding of elections in the countries of the Middle East, especially in the Arab world, will bring regimes that are more reactionary and more anti-Western than the current regimes).  Therefore, this trend sees that the United States of America should not pressure for democracy in the Arab world and the region, for fear of the escalation of regimes hostile to Israel and the interests of Washington when it comes to power.

 – And here I can present the results of the opinion poll of the “International Policy Attitudes Program” in the United States of America, which conducted an opinion poll on a sample of the American society towards (the American vision of spreading democracy), and the results came:

 1) The majority of respondents from within the American society (opposing the spread of American democracy by military force), whether that comes from overthrowing dictators or threatening countries with the use of armed force if they do not implement democratic reforms (66% of the opinion that the harms of these policies outweigh the benefits, compared to  21% saw the opposite).

 2) The majority of the two main parties in the United States of America, namely: (the Republican and Democratic parties), confirmed that building democracy was not a sufficient reason for the war on Iraq (74%), and (the experience of Iraq made Americans less supportive of the use of military force to impose democracy)  .

 3) Most of the American respondents were (not convinced that when there are more democratic countries, the world will be safer), while only 26% expressed their belief in that hypothesis.  Opinions of American citizens were divided as to whether (democracy would reduce support for terrorism, or whether democracies would be less likely to go to war, or more likely to be friends with the United States).

 4) Here, we find that (the majority of members of the American society believe that supporting democracy should be a goal in American foreign policy, but it is not a top priority).  She supported the application of a pragmatic approach and reliance on diplomatic and cooperative means in spreading democracy, and opposing (the use of punitive means as a means to pressure countries to become more democratic).

 5) The great irony for me, academically and in research, is that a large majority of American society members are still (prefer to work through the United Nations Organization for the Promotion of Democracy, and believe that the goal of the United Nations should be to support democracy in the world).

  – In this context, we can present to the US administration a framework of action on the issue of democracy in the Middle East, based on the following foundations and indicators:

  1) The existence of different models of democracy, and therefore (the democratic process should not necessarily follow a specific model), as there is no single model that can be followed.

 2) Elections in the Middle East do not create democracy alone, so it is important that (elections accompany the development of civil society).

 3) Democracy needs time that may reach decades and even generations, and spreading democracy and its values ​​in the Middle East needs (education and knowledge, economic modernization, responsible and independent media, and support for women’s rights).

 4) Also, although democracy can be encouraged from the outside, (it is better to build it from within in order to survive).

    Hence, we find that there is a difference in the view of democracy between the United States of America within the American interior itself, and the countries of the Middle East, due to the lack of (a ready-made democratic model or a single template for democracy that can be relied upon and presented to the region).  We can observe and infer it, when we know that (the real reason for the spread of terrorist acts in Iraq and Afghanistan is the rejection of the American presence there).  And if the American administrations push the process of democratization in the Arab countries, as happened with the failure of the Arab Spring revolutions, there is a high possibility that (all elected governments according to the American vision will become less cooperative with the United States of America than the authoritarian regimes in the region), which will threaten American and Israeli interests themselves.  It puts Israeli security at serious risk.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit