Foundation for the Future 2012 Report

The Foundation for the Future has released their 2012 annual report. The first thing to notice is how open they are about who they fund, what sums are involved and how they work across the region. This is excellent, and in strong contrast to EU initiatives – interviewed people in 2011 and was shocked that EU delegations were unwilling to talk about best practise.

FFF says “FFF capitalizes on its strengths, achievements and legitimacy to make a unique contribution to the political transformation in BMENA. FFF provides appropriate, home-grown responses to the region’s burning need for inclusive and just democracy. As a locally-rooted, endogenous organization, FFF is culturally-sensitive and demand-driven. Its impact is long-term and sus-tainable, and serves the best interests of the citizens of the region.”

It offers enormous potential for developing less colonial forms of democracy promotion, and is at the core of the Transatlantic interests projects considerations.

Talking book in Warsaw …

For those of you who are interested in my latest book and current research, this is a video link may be useful : Vimeo

Thanks again to Thomas Carothers at Carnegie for reviewing the book saying “Skillfully navigating ideologically-infested waters, Hassan arrives at valuable insights and persuasive, dispassionate conclusions about U.S. policy under both Bush and Obama relating to Arab political change. A fine example of rigorous, reflective scholarship applied to current policy issues of considerable importance and controversy.”

The books called Constructing America’s Freedom Agenda for the Middle East: Democracy or Domination (Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy), and sales are doing well in the US, so thanks to everyone who has bought it.

Oxford Encyclopaedia of International Relations

I’m just in the process of completing my submission on “U.S. Foreign Policy” for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of International Relations.  Putting the history of US policy into 2500 words has really forced me to think about the longue durée of American policy, and focus down into what’s important.  Pulling out the big themes is a useful exercise: Isolationism vs Internationalism; Power vs Principle; Liberalism and Empire … I’m am slightly scared about how many binaries I seem to be using though … it makes me want to research/write that more historical book though, just so I can get stuck into the archives …

About the Transatlantic Interests Project …

This project evaluates how the Arab Spring has affected US and EU policy towards regional allies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The events in one country after another were viewed from across the West with a mixture of awe and hope. There was great respect for the bravery of individual citizens who seemed to be willing to risk everything for a chance to topple existing authoritarian regimes, and this was coupled with a genuine desire to see personal political freedom extended to those people who had previously enjoyed very little of it. At the same time, though, as the wider population in the West was watching with great anticipation the efforts of indigenous democracy campaigns to cast off their existing political shackles, it must be noted that the Arab Spring itself serves as direct repudiation of the democratisation policy previously being conducted in the region by both the US and EU.

The project seeks to understand this tension by exploring how strategic calculations which attempt to balance democracy promotion by external actors with the security of other interests in the region are being transformed by events. Encouraging democratic transition in the MENA has been the stated aim of US and EU policy-makers since September 11 2001 in the name of national security at home, on the assumption that the socialisation of individuals to democratic norms will lessen the chances of the MENA becoming a breeding ground for terrorist organisations. Significantly, though, the one model of democracy promotion which does not appear to have been on the agenda of policy-makers in Washington and Brussels was the type of bottom-up demand for democracy from civil society groups which animated the Arab Spring. Western policy-makers instead have always preferred a policy of gradualism which tried to work with the region’s existing autocratic regimes. The Arab Spring challenges such a strategy in the most dramatic way imaginable, as it does the assumption that autocratic regimes will provide regional stability. This has fatally undermined existing policy, leaving US and EU foreign policy establishments struggling to create a new grand strategy of engagement with the region. The project explores this gulf in policy making, charting: (i) the new initiatives which have emerged from Washington and Brussels to replace the now largely defunct policy which dominated before the Arab Spring; and (ii) the tensions which remain from the failure so far to remove all remaining vestiges of the original policy.

Arguably the biggest challenge which continues to face Western policy-makers is the need for the US and EU to discover whether they have the foreign policy-making capacity to cope with the new regional realities on the ground. In particular, this might mean having to challenge the vested interests which have become embedded in their own security cultures if they are to promote that capacity successfully. The debate is currently in a continual process of reframing, as events are ongoing. This project seeks to trace that process of reframing in an attempt to show just how flexible the US and EU might now be to respond successfully to upcoming developments in the transition movements which were first activated during the Arab Spring. After all, it is not clear what the region will transform into: will the end result of the uprisings be more peaceful and stable democracies, a reversion back to autocratic rule after a temporary pro-democracy hiatus, the seizure of power by Islamist-dominated governments that are openly hostile to the “West”, or a complex combination of all three when viewing the region as a whole?