22 Dec 2007 - 08 Oct 2019
The Project on Middle East Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to examining the impact of American policy on political reform and democratization in the Middle East. Through dialogue, policy analysis, and advocacy, we hope to promote understanding of how genuine, authentic democracies can develop in the Middle East and how the U.S. can best support that process.
The Case for POMED
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, promoting democracy abroad became a fundamental principle of American foreign policy. But in the Middle East, other economic, geopolitical, and security concerns have often outweighed America’s interest in political reform, leading the U.S. to strengthen friendly dictatorships rather than support democratization. American economic aid, military assistance and diplomatic support help these authoritarian governments repress demands for political participation from their own citizens.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been a growing realization that our national security cannot be bought from friendly autocrats; it must be earned by supporting human rights, civil liberties, and democratic aspirations. Despite President Bush’s dramatic rhetorical shift towards a “a forward strategy of freedom,” U.S. support for democracy in the Middle East is waning. The Iraq war has sapped enthusiasm for “democracy promotion” among Americans and Middle Easterners alike. At the same time, the administration has used democracy selectively, turning a blind eye to the repressive acts of friendly autocrats while using “democracy” as a weapon to threaten our enemies. The U.S. must act now to regain its credibility on democracy by consistently and peacefully supporting democratic reform.
In order to institutionalize the promotion of democracy as a top priority in American policy towards the Middle East, there is an urgent need to rigorously examine America’s actual and potential impact on political reform in the region.
POMED’s Unique Advocacy Niche
While there are numerous advocacy groups influencing American policy toward the Middle East, few have consistently and credibly called for the U.S. government to support genuine, authentic democratic reform in the region. Other organizations occasionally urge America to support democracy for instrumental reasons, but such advocacy is neither persuasive nor enduring. Democracy should not be so frequently subordinated to other interests that speak with greater power or contribute more money; it is both a moral imperative that deserves to be considered on its own merits and a fundamental concern for American national security.
The members of POMED are dedicated to organizing an influential constituency for democracy and bringing its voice to bear on American policy towards the Middle East.
“Political freedom is a part of human freedom in general, and exercising civil and political rights is a crucial part of good lives of individuals as social beings.”
- Amartya Sen Winner of 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Development as Freedom
“The West, and particularly the United States, needs to change the incentives created by present foreign policy so as to facilitate, not discourage, democratic development in the Muslim world.”
- Noah Feldman Author of After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy
“The U.S. needs to show that it has the courage of its convictions. It must be willing to put up with the inconvenient vicissitudes of democracy in the Arab world, just as it does in Israel or Turkey…This would be a more complex scene, to be sure, but one that offered a better life for peoples of the region and a more healthy and transparent environment in which to promote U.S. interests.”
- Michele Dunne Editor, Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace