Obama’s Middle East democracy problem

Barack Obama entered office last year promising a sweeping reinvention of America’s image in the world, most of all in the Middle East, where George W. Bush saw his ambitious agenda of democratic transformation meet with the reality of a region deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and locked into stagnant authoritarian regimes. As part of ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Barack Obama entered office last year promising a sweeping reinvention of America’s image in the world, most of all in the Middle East, where George W. Bush saw his ambitious agenda of democratic transformation meet with the reality of a region deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and locked into stagnant authoritarian regimes.

As part of that reinvention, the Obama administration has changed the tone of U.S. interaction on the democracy front. Administration officials have espoused democratic principles in general -- as the president did in his eloquent June 4 speech in Cairo, in which he pointedly criticized Arab regimes’ lack of accountability to their people -- but shied away from direct confrontation. The question is whether this behind-the-scenes approach will be any more successful than Bush’s in-your-face policy.

Barack Obama entered office last year promising a sweeping reinvention of America’s image in the world, most of all in the Middle East, where George W. Bush saw his ambitious agenda of democratic transformation meet with the reality of a region deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and locked into stagnant authoritarian regimes.

As part of that reinvention, the Obama administration has changed the tone of U.S. interaction on the democracy front. Administration officials have espoused democratic principles in general — as the president did in his eloquent June 4 speech in Cairo, in which he pointedly criticized Arab regimes’ lack of accountability to their people — but shied away from direct confrontation. The question is whether this behind-the-scenes approach will be any more successful than Bush’s in-your-face policy.

Read the article.

Barbara Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council. Twitter: @BarbaraSlavin1

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