Entries for February, 2011

Should America Promote “Freedom and Democracy” In Muslim Countries?

For decades, the U.S. government has provided economic, military, and political aid to dictatorships in the Muslim world, on the theory that dictators would provide stability and protect American interests in the Muslim world.

When Muslims tried to pick their own leaders, the U.S. government was unsympathetic. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran in 1953. The first President Bush stood silently by as the Algerian military prevented democratically-elected leaders from taking power in Algeria in the early 1990s.

After 9/11 highlighted anti-American feeling in the Muslim world, the second President Bush declared in November 2003 that the U.S. would reverse its policy. “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.”

The second President Bush partly justified the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on the grounds of spreading “freedom and democracy.” He publicly called on allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and hostile states, like Iran, to allow more “freedom and democracy.” In addition, he said that spreading “freedom and democracy” will counter Al Qaeda’s vision of a “heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East.”

In Cairo in 2009, President Obama told the Muslim world, “But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

However, both the Bush and Obama Administrations continued to provide significant support to friendly (pro-American) non-democratic regimes in the Muslim world.

Many Muslims around the world are suspicious that the U.S. remains committed to controlling and dominating, not freeing, the Muslim world. Read the rest of this entry »