Friday, September 28, 2007

Recovering from (Arab) Spring Fever

The magazine co-sponsored an event today with the Carnegie Endowment, featuring the authors of two pieces looking at the question of democracy and the Middle East--Nathan Brown and Amr Hamzawy, and Suzanne Maloney. Tom Carothers moderated.

Some of the points made during the course of the discussion:

--trying to establish the cause for movement toward reform. How much does U.S. pressure matter? Is there a relationship between the countries pursuing what Brown and Hamzawy term liberal autocratic reform and the fact that many depend on the U.S. for security?

--is there a relationship between the importance of a country for the Arab-Israeli peace process and the willingness of the United States to see Islamist parties take part in elections and governance? (Morocco v. Egypt). Does it also depend on whether the Islamist forces are unified into a single bloc and are the only source of real opposition to the existing regime?

--can a government in the region successfully push back on political reform if it is capable of delivering on socio-economic benefits?

I found the discussion about the distinction between liberalizing "moments" and the need for continuous, sustainable liberalization to be an interesting one, as well as the discussion on whether overt U.S. aid helps or hinders the process of reform and liberalization (particularly with regards to Iran). I realize that this is an insufficient summary but expect that there should be further reporting on the event.

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