MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS
FROM: GARY SCHMITT
SUBJECT: Democracy in the Muslim World
This past Wednesday, Richard Haass, director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on the topic of democracy and the Muslim World. Ambassador Haass's speech is a major statement by a senior administration official on a central element of President Bush's Middle East strategy. Pointing out that previous administrations, Republican and Democratic, had emphasized "stability" over "democratization," Haass' core point is that "stability based on authority alone is illusory and ultimately impossible to sustain."
Excerpts from the speech ("Towards Greater Democracy in the Muslim World") follow. The full text of the speech can be found at http://www.state.gov/s/p/.
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On Democracy as a Strategic Imperative
"Democracy remains a focal point of American policy today. The National Security Strategy of the United States affirms: 'America must stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.'
"Why has the United States so often emphasized democracy? At the most fundamental level, we support democracy as a matter of principle. It is at the very heart of what we are as a nation and who we are as a people .
"There are also practical reasons for the United States to promote democracy abroad, demonstrating that realism and idealism are complementary. Quite simply, we will prosper more as a people and as a nation in a world of democracies than in a world of authoritarian or chaotic regimes.
"A democratic world is a more peaceful world. The pattern of established democracies not going to war with one another is among the most demonstrable findings in the study of international relations. This does not mean we cannot have overlapping interests and fruitful cooperation with non-democracies, nor does it mean that we will not have strong disagreements with fellow democracies. But the more established democracies there are, the larger the area in the world where nations will be more likely to sort out their differences through diplomacy."
On Democracy's Progress in the Muslim World
"A number of countries with Muslim majorities attended the Community of Democracies meeting in Seoul, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Turkey and Yemen. These countries are either democracies or are on the road to becoming more democratic.
"The fact that so many Muslim countries were invited to Seoul either as mature democracies or as observers reflects the fact that there are promising developments taking place throughout the Muslim world .
"President Bush spoke to this point when he addressed graduating seniors at West Point on June 1, 2002: "When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes.
"Dynamic reform experiments underway in many parts of the Muslim world demonstrate that democracy and Islam are compatible. I'd like to highlight a few, recognizing that this is hardly an exhaustive list.
"In Morocco this past September, citizens voted in the freest, fairest, and most transparent elections in the country's history, creating a diverse new parliament.
"In October, Bahrainis cast votes for the first time in thirty years to elect a parliament. It was also the first time women ran for national office. Just last week, Oman's Sultan Qaboos announced that he is extending the vote for the Consultative Shura Council to all his country's adult citizens. Earlier this year, Qatar announced a new constitution in anticipation of upcoming parliamentary elections. Yemen now boasts not only a multiparty system and an elected parliament but also directly elected municipal officials and, since 1999, a directly elected president. And following the Gulf War, Kuwait reinstated its directly-elected National Assembly; Kuwaitis are currently preparing for the next round of parliamentary elections, slated to be held next summer .
"We must also recognize that Muslims participate fully and actively in the civic life of democratic countries where they are not a majority. Some 40 percent of Muslims live as minorities, including several million here who are an important and active part of American democracy. In countries such as India, France, and South Africa, Muslims put lie to the canard that Muslim life is somehow incompatible with democratic participation .
"In Iran, we see a widespread popular clamor for reform which will hopefully result in greater democracy and greater openness . In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform.
"Iraq deserves mention in this context, too. America is a friend to the talented people of Iraq and to their aspirations . The United States and our allies are prepared to help the Iraqi people create the institutions of liberty in a free and unified Iraq."
On the Democracy Deficit in the Muslim World
"But despite these encouraging signs, we must recognize that there is, in fact, a freedom deficit in many parts of the Muslim world, and in the Arab world in particular .
"The democracy gap between the Muslim world and the rest of the world is huge. Only one out of four countries with Muslim majorities have democratically elected governments. Moreover, the gap between Muslim countries and the rest of the world is widening. Over the past twenty years, democracy and freedom expanded in countries in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. In contrast, the Muslim world is still struggling .
"Some will suggest that these judgments are Western and thus unfair. To them, I would point to a document published this past summer by a team of more than 30 Arab scholars. The Arab Human Development Report, written on behalf of the U.N. Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, portrays an Arab world that is neither prosperous nor free . The Arab world faces serious problems that can only be met by more flexible, democratic political systems."
On Ending the Democratic Exception
"Muslims cannot blame the United States for their lack of democracy. Still, the United States does play a large role on the world stage, and our efforts to promote democracy throughout the Muslim world have sometimes been halting and incomplete .
"At times, the United States has avoided scrutinizing the internal workings of countries in the interests of ensuring a steady flow of oil, containing Soviet, Iraqi and Iranian expansionism, addressing issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, resisting communism in East Asia, or securing basing rights for our military. Yet by failing to help foster gradual paths to democratization in many of our important relationships - by creating what might be called a "democratic exception" - we missed an opportunity to help these countries became more stable, more prosperous, more peaceful, and more adaptable to the stresses of a globalizing world.
"It is not in our interest-or that of the people living in the Muslim world-for the United States to continue this exception. U.S. policy will be more actively engaged in supporting democratic trends in the Muslim world than ever before. This is the clear message of the President's National Security Strategy.
"We will do this in full knowledge of the fact that democracies are imperfect. They are complicated. Indeed, leaders in some Muslim states contrast democratic systems to their own, more orderly systems, and point with satisfaction to the seeming stability that they provide. Yet stability based on authority alone is illusory and ultimately impossible to sustain . Rigid authoritarian systems cannot withstand the shocks of social, political or economic change, particularly of the kind or at the pace that characterizes the modern world .
"There will be those who argue that democratization is impossible in the Muslim world since it has little history or tradition of democracy. This too I reject; after all, until recently, only a few parts of the world had any experience with democracy. This argument reflects what President Bush refers to as the "soft bigotry of low expectations .
"Still, at the end of the day, the decision to move along the path to democracy belongs to the people of the Muslim world. It is in both their and our interests that they do so. It is also the only way in which these societies, like all societies throughout the world, can best maximize the potential of all of their people, and make real a future defined by greater freedom, greater peace, and greater prosperity."