No American administration has talked more about democracy in the Middle East than the Bush administration. The president and his advisors have spoken optimistically about a post-Saddam democracy in Iraq, one that might eventually become a veritable light to other Arab nations. This grand vision assumes that sooner or later, advocates of democracy throughout the Middle East will demand the same freedoms and rights that Iraqis are now claiming. Yet, however inspiring this vision appears, the actual reform plan that the administration has thus far set out is unlikely to produce radical changes in the Arab world. Regardless of how dramatic the change in Baghdad is, when it comes to our friends in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Yemen, the administration's reform plan points to evolution rather than revolution.

In this working paper Daniel Brumberg argues that before the United States can determine whether this gradualist approach to democratic reform is the best remedy, we must first understand how Arab autocracies actually work, and, in particular, how the "liberalized autocracies" of the region endure despite frequent prediction of their imminent death.

This is the second in a series of working papers that will frame key issues relating to democracy promotion policies and programs in the Middle East. Also in the series: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East: The Problem of U.S. Credibility, Marina Ottaway.

About the Author
Daniel Brumberg
is a visiting scholar in the Carnegie Endowment's Democracy and Rule of Law Project, on leave from his position as associate professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran (University of Chicago Press, 2001) and the coauthor of Democratic Mirage in the Middle East (Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief No. 20).

Available only online.