After decades of giving relatively little attention to the possibility and problems of democracy in the Middle East, the U.S. foreign policy community has in the past year elevated the issue to a position of central importance. In this working paper, Marina Ottaway highlights a problem of fundamental significance—the lack of credibility that the United States has in the Arab world when it presents itself as a pro-democratic actor.

Although many Americans may feel that America's bona fides as a pro-democratic actor are unquestionable, the stubborn fact remains that many people in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, have a different opinion. If left unaddressed, this credibility gap will undermine even the most well-intentioned efforts by the United States to promote positive political change in the region. While recognizing that there are no instant solutions to this problem, the paper identifies ways the United States can begin to alleviate the gap and in so doing pave the way for a genuine, lasting democratic engagement with the Middle East.

Click on link above for full text of this Carnegie Paper.

This is the first in a series of working papers that will frame key issues relating to democracy promotion policies and programs in the Middle East.

About the Author
Marina Ottaway
is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment. Her new book, Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism, a comparative study of semiauthoritarian regimes in Africa, the Caucasus, Latin America, and the Middle East, was published in January 2003.

Also by Marina Ottaway:
Africa's New Leaders: Democracy or State Reconstruction? (1999)
Funding Virtue: Civil Society Aid and Democracy Promotion (2000), coedited with Thomas Carothers
Democratic Mirage in the Middle East (Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief No. 20), coauthored with Thomas Carothers, Amy Hawthorne, and Daniel Brumberg

Available only online.