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Democracy Deficit

U.S. Democracy Promotion Efforts in the Arab World

By Amy W. Hawthorne

During the 1990s, as “democracy building” rose to become one of the key global U.S. foreign policy objectives, issues of democracy and human rights in the Arab world largely continued to take a back seat to core American policy interests in that region. Yet, responding to signs of political reform in the Arab world and influenced by the international trend of external engagement as a means of encouraging democratic development, the U.S. launched “democracy promotion” initiatives from Morocco to Yemen, spending more than $300 million in democracy aid.

This groundbreaking study, documenting U.S.-supported democracy aid initiatives in the Arab world implemented during the 1990s, examines the evolution of U.S. policy toward democratic reform across the Arab world and explains how Washington envisioned that such reform would help advance U.S. interests in some parts of the region. Drawing on extensive research, including interviews with current and former U.S. and Arab government officials as well as American and Arab participants in democracy aid programs, the author analyzes the underlying assumptions, methodology, and often disappointing results of these efforts. The book’s conclusion argues that democracy promotion should form a more prominent component of U.S. policy toward the Arab world, and offers recommendations as to how future democracy promotion policies and programs can have a deeper impact.

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