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Spreading Democracy in the Middle East is a Bad Idea

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One of the key justifications for the invasion of Iraq was spreading democracy in the Middle East. Proponents of democratization argue that the United States has a moral responsibility to empower those seeking freedom around the world, while others question the legitimacy of a governance structure imposed by outsiders. Is spreading democracy in the Middle East a bad idea? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Flynt Leverett

Senior Fellow and Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Initiative of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation

Flynt has served as senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, Middle East expert on the secretary of state's policy... Read More

Dimitri K. Simes

Founding President of The Nixon Center and Publisher of its foreign policy bi-monthly magazine

Before the establishment of the center, Simes served as chairman of the Center for Russian and Eurasian Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International... Read More

Shibley Telhami

Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, and non-resident senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution

In 2006, Shibley served on the Iraq Study Group as a member of the Strategic Environment Working Group.Read More

Against the motion

Liz Cheney

Attorney and Specialist in the areas of U.S. Middle East policy and reform in the Arab world

Liz served most recently as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (2005-2006). Her responsibilities included designing... Read More

Danielle Pletka

Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

Danielle's research areas include the Middle East, South Asia, terrorism and weapons proliferation. She recently served as a member of the Task Force... Read More

Natan Sharansky

Chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at The Shalem Center in Jerusalem

From March 2003 until May 2005, Natan was an Israeli minister responsible for Jerusalem, social and Jewish diaspora affairs. He also has served as... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Democratization in the Middle East should be the result of regional revolution and the legitimate political will of its people, not American intervention.
  • Overthrowing existing leaders in the name of democracy often leads to the installation of oppressive leaders who seize power when their nations are politically, socially and economically destabilized.
  • The act of promoting democracy in the Middle East, which often directly conflicts with the will of existing governments and political leaders, would inspire more terrorist attacks and further harm American interests. 
Against The Motion
  • America cannot maintain its image as a beacon of democracy and freedom if it fails to support the democratic will of historically oppressed people.
  • Terrorist groups thrive in areas that perpetuate a sense of political hopelessness; building democracy diminishes those strongholds and restrains America’s enemies abroad.
  • Fostering stability and democracy in the Middle East directly benefits American economic interests as it fosters the creation of global allies and reduces the need for foreign humanitarian aid.  

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