Not sure what Freedom Agenda Gary Gambill is talking about
Gary has a piece in FP that frankly makes no sense. I am surprised because Gary is usually very good in debunking truisms from afar, even when politically awkward for his editors/funders etc.
He presents flimsy links to the early on “democratization” efforts of Bush which were, of course, thrown out by Bush folks around the second term even in the discourse – this is a well known argument!
But more than that, Gary knows that using words like “no joke” and “genuine” to even describe the first few years of the “freedom agenda” by Bush is ridiculous. Looking at just the examples he cites – in egypt for example – one can see how this was mere rhetorical window dressing – IT WAS NOT MEANINGFUL on the ground and was quickly reversed by the bush folks in any case
Really perplexed by this piece. Here are some bits:
“…In the wake of 9/11, the White House openly repudiated the longstanding conventional wisdom that U.S.-backed autocratic regimes in the Middle East served as bulwarks against the regional and international security threat posed by radical Islamism. Al Qaeda was then a largely Saudi and Egyptian network, its leadership drawn primarily from disgruntled subjects of the Arab world’s two most powerful pro-American governments. The Bush administration quickly recognized that authoritarianism had swelled the ranks of radical Islamist movements by traumatizing Arab citizens and eradicating alternate channels of political expression, while Washington’s longstanding support for this state of affairs infused them with hatred of America
“…Given the multitude of septuagenarian and octogenarian heads of state in the Arab world and the growing impact of communications technology in weakening authoritarian controls, the assumption that political reform could wait for peace was dismissed as untenable.
“…Bush administration officials feared a repeat of Iran’s 1979 revolution, when the collapse of an oppressive, U.S.-backed government led to a power vacuum that violently anti-American Islamists were best positioned to exploit. Iraq aside, the Freedom Agenda was intended less to bring about full-blown transitions to democracy than to treat the pathologies of existing regimes, maximize the capacity of secular opposition groups to compete with Islamists, and dispel the widespread belief among Arabs that the United States, as Al-Quds al-Arabi editor Abdelbari Atwan once put it, “wants us to have dictators and monarchical presidents.”
“…Whatever the motivations of its fair-weather advocates, however, the Bush administration’s commitment to effecting political liberalization in the region was genuine. It was uneven in practice, to be sure — countries heavily dependent on U.S. aid were pressured far more than the oil-rich monarchies, for example, where the United States had little leverage.
“…The administration’s flagship democracy promotion effort targeted Egypt — recipient of more than $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid — and it was no joke. The Bush administration pressured Cairo to hold its freest parliamentary elections in decades, vastly increased U.S. aid to Egyptian NGOs working for political reform, and directed the U.S. Embassy to devote a large portion of its resources to civil society outreach…”