Like many others, I’ve often wondered why democracy is slow in coming to the Middle East. In an article written for Foreign Affairs, Seth G. Jones looks at this question and arrives at an interesting conclusion. He believes that the energy wealth of these countries allows regimes to fund their security forces well and buy off key constituencies. (“The Mirage of the Arab Spring” by Seth G. Jones, Jan/Feb. 2013 Foreign Affairs, pg. 60) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, he writes as an example, “blunted calls for reform by announcing a staggering $130 billion benefits package that improved wages and job opportunities for a population of less than 30 million.” (Ibid, pg. 60.)
Sheri Berman, writing in the same periodical, offers a different view. Autocratic leaders, she contends, have suppressed the development of political parties for so long that religious organizations are “the only forums in which average citizens could express themselves or participate actively in the lives of the communities.” “(The Promise of the Arab Spring,” by Sheri Berman, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2013, pg. 65) When regimes like those of Egypt’s Hosni- Mubarak fall, “only Islamists had the infrastructure in place to mobilize supporters effectively.” (Ibid, pg. 65.) She does not discount hope for democracy in the future, however.
While the future of the Middle East hangs in the balance, our involvement seems to be one of withdrawal, particularly as oil, the commodity that drew us to that corner of the world, will soon be produced in abundance in our own country. The question is, with no self-interest in the region, how will we treat the affairs of the Middle East now? After the bombings and the political upheaval we’ve caused and the deaths, will we walk away, glad to escape the nightmare we helped to create? Or will we continue to take an interest in supporting budding democracies. Given our approval rating in the Arab world, about 19%, I doubt we’ll be approached for much help. But if we are, I hope will provide that assistance as readily as we sent soldiers and drones. It’s the least we should do.
(Courtesy of www.emotionalintelligence.com)