President George W. Bush intended to bring democracy to the Middle East, but the early results were dispiriting. After stalemate in Iraq and the electoral success of Hamas, many observers concluded that the pursuit of Arab democracy was a fool’s errand. Despite these setbacks, Brookings Senior Fellow Tamara Cofman Wittes argues in her new book Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy (Brookings Institution Press, 2008) that democracy promotion in the Arab world remains an essential component of any strategy to achieve long-term American goals in that critical region.
On May 1, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted Wittes for a discussion of her new book. In Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy, Wittes shows why the Bush administration was right to try to advance freedom in the region—and how they went about it in the wrong way. Dissecting the administration’s failures, she lays out a smarter, more realistic long-term policy for democracy promotion in the Middle East.
Saban Center Director Martin S. Indyk moderated the discussion. Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, provided commentary on the book and the status of democracy promotion in the Middle East. After the program, panelists took audience questions.