Common Interests, Closer Allies: How Democracy in Arab States Can Benefit the West, 48
Stan. J. Int'l L.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/facpubs/1938
Western leaders have reacted ambivalently to the antigovemment protests during the "Arab Spring" and the political developments that have followed in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. This Article argues that they should see democratic change in Arab countries as an important long-term goal and seek opportunities to support it. Democratization would advance Western countries' interests, as well as the ideals they proclaim and the interests of Arab citizens who aspire to govern themselves. The Article synthesizes empirical social science, social science theory, and policy analysis that strongly suggest that democratization of Arab countries would serve core Western interests in the region. First, democracy would have a stabilizing impact inside Arab countries, reducing the risk of civil war and internal terrorism in the long run and quite possibly in the short run. Second, interstate conflict, which this Article's original empirical findings show to be frequent in the Arab world, would likely diminish in the long run as more Arab states became democratic. Third, terrorist attacks against Western countries would be less likely to originate in Arab countries if the latter became solid democracies. Finally, Western countries' fundamental interests in the region align more closely with those of Arab publics than those of Arab dictators, so Arab citizens are likely to be better partners for the West. This benefit will not materialize automatically, however. Western policymakers will have to overcome ordinary Arabs ' well-justified skepticism about their intentions. Their first step must be to transform their attitudes and policies so as to respect Arab citizens as equals and partners. The Article also considers the possibility that Islamists elected to lead new Arab democracies would use state power to harshly oppress women and minorities. It concludes that this is unlikely, but not out of the question. Continued autocracy is likely to strengthen Islamists' support anyway, so Western countries should not hesitate to support democratization out of concern over what Islamists might do in office. Western countries must step carefully as they try to support democratic change in Arab countries. Their power is limited and they cannot be the primary drivers of change. Their efforts must be guided by subtle analysis of local power dynamics and of how their influence functions in each national context.