Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Three final thoughts on democratization in the Middle East

In descending order of importance:

1) If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies. One of the most powerful incentives for Eastern European countries to democratize was the tantalizing prospect of joining the democratic clubs of NATO and the European Union.

There's some compelling evidence that democratic clubs matter. Jon Pevehouse at the University of Wisconsin has statistically demonstrated that when fragile governments gain membership into democratic clubs, they are more likely to become stable democracies. Here's an abstract of one published paper; Jon makes a similar point in his contribution to my edited volume ( Amazon sales rank: 2,111,830 and climbing!!)

Of course, the rewards of membership would have to be significant. A preferential trade agreement with the United States might be an option, especially since the U.S. already has such deals with Israel and Jordan.

Currently, a club for Middle Eastern democracies would have a small list of invitees. Within the next year, that may change for the better.

2) One point that I didn't address in the TNR essay but is worth acknowledging is that democratization may be taking place in the countries surrounding Iraq, but that's not the only thing that matters. These countries are still plagued by a fair amount of corruption. Even if Iraq becomes democratic, it's likely to have significant problems with corruption.

3) Reason #213 why I love the blog is that I can amend and augment material that I publish in other media.

posted by Dan on 03.12.03 at 11:21 AM