President George W. Bush intended to bring democracy to the Middle East, but the early results were dispiriting. After stalemate in Iraq and the electoral success of Hamas, many observers concluded that the pursuit of Arab democracy was a fool’s errand. Despite these setbacks, Tamara Cofman Wittes argues that democracy promotion in the Arab world remains an essential component of any strategy to achieve long-term American goals in that critical region.
A volatile combination of growing populations, economic stagnation, and political alienation poses a serious threat to stability in today’s Middle East. These forces are severely testing the legitimacy and governability of key states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, limiting their ability to work with the United States on regional priorities such as stabilizing Iraq and combating terrorism.
Freedom’s Unsteady March shows why America cannot afford to be neutral or passive in the face of the momentous changes taking place in Arab states and why it must wield its power and influence in support of democratic reform. Wittes also dissects the Bush administration’s failure to advance freedom in the Middle East. She diagnoses the roots of America’s ambivalence about Arab democracy, and shows how to confront more honestly the risks of change and act more effectively to contain them.