Obama Administration Unsupportive of Middle East Democracy?
Steven Stanek and Matt Bradley, in an article for The National, comment on the Obama Administration’s committment to democratic reform in the Middle East. Stanek and Bradley compare former President Bush’s approach of democracy promotion through the use of military force to President Obama’s more relaxed stance. The authors comment that democracy promotion is rarely mentioned by President Obama in discussions of foreign policy. They underscore this view by referring to recent cuts in funding for democracy promotion in Egypt and Jordan.
The article also quotes Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endownment for International Peace, as vocalizing disappointment, stating, “Certainly there has not been a lot of emphasis on democracy promotion.” Ottaway recommends that the president engage the Arab countries in discussions of political reforms and the best way to enact these reforms while respecting the culture of the region.
In her speech last month at Georgetown Univeristy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the Administration’s approach to democracy promtion as one of of “principled pragmatism,” utilizing tatics that reflect the “realities on the ground.” While strong statements have been made by various members of the administration, Stanek and Bradley report, other parties are concerned that U.S. strategic aims will overshadow moral and ideological considerations.
In another article for The National, foreign correspondent Matt Bradley explores the ramifications of President Obama’s budget cuts to funds earmarked to support democracy in Egypt in Fiscal Year 2010. He reports that such cuts will remove programs aimed at teaching people from smaller impoverished towns, many of them women, the importance of democracy. Citing POMED’s July 2009 report, Bradley states that proposed cuts will also most strongly affect those organizations that remain unregistered with the Egyptian government, an act that many speculate will prove detrimental to democracy promotion in the long run.
While the article does offer criticism, there are those who voice support of Obama’s policy agenda. Bradley quotes former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Richard Murphy as saying, “I think it’s the more realistic, pragmatic approach to say that there’s a limit to the number of friends we’ve got in this world, and let’s work with them and hope to inspire them with our own example.”