Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I've done so far

This is for the thesis. It's short and crap.

Chapter 4

Issues surrounding US democracy promotion to the Arab Middle East

Very few Western commentators have had the sheer nutsack* to come out and say "Democracy promotion is a terrible idea - autocracy is far better". Arguments tend not to be against the promotion of democracy as such, but about its timing, structure and the nature of democracy specifically. Many arguments rest on the specifics of Arab and Islamic society - some openly orientalist, others more structural, but all based on particular characteristics of the Middle East. In turn, Arab opinion ranges from absolute rejection of democracy (al-Qaeda and some of the more hardcore but non-violent Islamists), to qualified acceptance (mainstream Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhoods in different countries), to enthusiasm about democracy itself, tempered by resentment and suspicion about US motives and sincerity in promoting it.

In this section of the thesis, I will look at liberal/progressive critiques of democracy promotion, conservative critiques, and where these critiques overlap. I will then examine the Arab experience and their attitudes to democracy promotion. I will outline some of the programs used to promote democracy in the Arab Middle East and examine their benefits and faults.

Left wing critiques of democracy promotion in general fall into two spaces. The first is to dismiss all democracy promotion as imperialist and only interested in promoting capitalism (and often, not even capitalism, but simply getting access to resources). The second, more centrist position is to accept the virtue of democracy and the desirability of its promotion, but to criticise the methods used to do so as well as the content of the supposed democracy. Of course, an individual writer may vary between these two positions.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne criticised the administration for its handling of the war in Iraq, commenting that "Creating democracy where it has never existed is a long and painstaking process. You can't whip it up by buying a cake mix or holding a single election and declaring victory." [This doesn't go anywhere just yet, I have others]

Juan Cole blasts Bush for confusing elections with democracy, in language echoed by critics on the left and the right:

Democracy depends not just on elections but on a rule of law, on stable institutions, on basic economic security for the population, and on checks and balances that forestall a tyranny of the majority. Elections in the absence of this key societal context can produce authoritarian regimes and abuses as easily as they can produce genuine people power. Bush is on the whole unwilling to invest sufficiently in these key institutions and practices abroad.

I am not entirely sure what Cole would find "sufficient", but he is not alone in criticising Bush for failing to invest enough money or patience or time in democracy promotion. Interestingly, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations uses the same reasoning to defend the freedom agenda, stating that

While Hamas and Hezbollah may have embraced the procedures of democracy, there is no evidence that they have embraced the rule of law, the rights of women and minorities, political and religious tolerance, and alternation of power.

Cook is writing in the heat of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, explaining that democracy promotion is not to blame for the current crisis. Whereas Cole blames Bush for being indecisive about whether he really wants elections in the Middle East and for undermining the Palestinian Authority to the point where Hamas looked like an attractive alternative, Cook blames a lack of pre-existing democratic structures for the strong showing of Hamas and Hizballah.


That's about 500 words. Crap, innit?

*Don't panic, I'm not really going to use the words "sheer nutsack" in a thesis... :) Also the TNI link is just for your interest and to remind myself that I'm going to use it.


I get more hits on my site when I post an mp3, because of the Hype Machine, so I'm going to combine my mp3 posts with my thesis/essay posts.

In continuation of the Middle Eastern theme I started with Abjeez, I'm pleased to note that Iranian pop band 127 have updated their website, and it looks great. Unlike Abjeez, 127 actually live in Iran, and therefore face certain predictable obstacles. Their frustration seeps out on their media page - "127 has started recording material for another never-to-be-released album..."

Music from "second-world" countries (this term used to refer to Communist countries that were economically, but us Western imperialists would say not politically, developed) has often sounded really painfully dated as the only music bands could listen to in closed societies was smuggled in and not exactly cutting edge. (The first bands Iranians were permitted to listen to when Mohammad Khatami became President were Queen and Elton John. Hmmm, well thought out, homophobes!) Fortunately for 127, we're splat in the middle of an 80s revival, and 127's sound is fresh and enjoyable.

Perfect Esfahan Blues
My Sweet Little Terrorist Song (sounds quite a bit like Bob Dylan... it's good though)

There are songs I haven't heard yet at their revamped music page, so I'm looking forward to hearing them. Also, lead singer Sohrab Mohebbi has many interesting things to say about the music biz in general - this whinge about the state of the industry in Iran sounds eerily familiar to the sort of crap that gets tossed about in any tiny subculture, Western or not. This interested me, though:

Another issue is the state of Iranian bands. It is enough to look at the members of some of the best known (outside pop music) bands and we will find out that most bands don’t have permanent or regular musicians. In truth, several musicians make the rounds in these bands and only the lead singer is fixed. Imagine if {Jimmy Hendrix}, just because he was a good guitar player, had played with some or most of the rock bands of his time.
Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Also check out, the Swedish-hosted site for the Iranian music underground, and the Tehran Avenue Music Festival, about which more later.

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