The Project on Middle East Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to examining how genuine democracies can develop in the Middle East and how the U.S. can best support that process. Through dialogue, research, and advocacy, we work to strengthen the constituency for U.S. policies that peacefully support democratic reform in the Middle East.
- Democracy is an inalienable right. Every political community has the right to govern itself democratically through free, fair and open processes and institutions.
- Democracy functions differently in every country in which it is practiced. This diversity is a central reason why democracy is a universal value and can be adopted successfully by any society. Each country’s citizens, through deliberative processes, have the right to determine the specific nature of their democracy.
- America’s fundamental values call for the U.S. to support democracy. America was founded on the principles of democratic governance and freedom of expression, yet its policy towards the Middle East has often sacrificed democracy at the altar of other interests. To be true to its basic principles, America must consistently and credibly support democracy abroad.
- Supporting democracy in the Middle East is in America’s long-term interest. Continued support for the Middle East’s authoritarian status quo will jeopardize American national security and economic interests. While genuinely promoting democracy requires the courage to bear short-term risks, free and open political processes will ultimately reduce incentives to resort to violence.
- The U.S. cannot be neutral on democracy in the Middle East. The billions of dollars the U.S. provides to Middle Eastern governments each year in economic aid and military assistance reflect America’s substantial and enduring interests in the region and preclude any pretense of neutrality on democracy. The U.S. must carefully examine the consequences of its actions on political reform.
- The U.S. has the potential to make a positive impact on democratization in the Middle East. America has a credibility gap on democracy because it often tolerates authoritarian behavior by friendly regimes while calling for democracy and regime change in unfriendly ones. By consistently supporting democracy, America will begin to overcome this legacy and repair its credibility gap.
- The U.S. must respect democratic outcomes. In the short term, free and fair elections may result in some governments that are less favorable to U.S. interests. Regardless, America must respect democratic processes. The long-term benefits of improved credibility and democracy outweigh the short-term costs.
- Democracy cannot be imposed. Engagement through peaceful means, such as dialogue and diplomacy, is the only legitimate and effective way to promote democracy in the region. The U.S. can and will help but, ultimately, stable and secure democracies in the Middle East can only be built from within.
Board of Advisors
- Nathan Brown
Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University
- Daniel Brumberg
Associate Professor of Government & Co-Director of the Democracy and Governance Studies, Georgetown University
- Steve Clemons
Senior Fellow and Director, American Strategy Program
- Thomas Carothers
Vice President of Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Wendy Chamberlain
President, Middle East Institute
- Lorne Craner
President, International Republican Institute
- Larry Diamond
Director of the Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at Stanford University
- Michele Dunne
Editor, Arab Reform Bulletin
- Bob Edgar
President and CEO, Common Cause
- Haleh Esfandiari
Director, Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center
- Noah Feldman
Professor of Law at Harvard University
- Mary Gray
Chair, Board of Directors of AMIDEAST
- Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Founder, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies
- Jim Kolbe
Former Congressman (R-AZ)
- Jim Moody
Former Congressman (D-WI)
- Mark Palmer
Vice President, Council for a Community of Democracies
- Kenneth Wollack
President, National Democratic Institute