The New-look “International Studies Today” magazine


The new look BISA International Studies Today magazine was launched today, and includes a short piece by me entitled “American Democracy Promotion and the Arab Spring“.


In the aftermath of September 11 2001, the George W. Bush administration came to see the promotion of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa as a national interest.  As such, it constructed a democracy promotion policy as both a method of engaging with the Middle East, but also as a method of “draining the swamp” and countering terrorism.  Within such a context, the revolutions sweeping across the Middle East could be perceived as a success for what George W. Bush termed the Freedom Agenda.  Indeed, within certain neoconservative circles in Washington D.C. it is argued that events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen have vindicated the Freedom Agenda.  However, a closer look at the Freedom Agenda reveals a contrary story about what the Bush administration was attempting, and the success of its democracy promotion policy in the region.  Once the policy is more closely understood, rather than the Arab Spring demonstrating policy success, they are in fact the ultimate expression of the policy’s failure.


A closer analysis of the Freedom Agenda reveals that the Bush administration espoused particularly narrow definitions of what it understood by essentially contested concepts such as “freedom” and “democracy”.  As such, when the Bush administration spoke of promoting “democracy”, freedom”, “security” and “peace”, what it meant was the promotion of top-down, elite-led, neoliberal conception of democracy.  This was to be done by force in Iraq and, after some considerable changes of strategy, in Afghanistan.  However, for ally regimes, what was offered was a strategy of incrementally reforming autocratic regimes whilst maintaining regional stability.  This was a shift form the status quo policy in place before September 11 2001, in that the US was pushing for reforms in the region.  However, unlike in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and once elected in 2006, Hamas, the political power of authoritarian allies and friends was not challenged either militarily or covertly.  This was because …

Follow the link for the full article


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