Current History, January, 2003.

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The Arab world's democracy deficit has finally captured Washington's attention. Despite this high-level interest, the Bush administration has yet to formulate a realistic democracy-promotion strategy for the Middle East. Ambitious plans to replace current regimes with democratic successors have been proposed for some leaders the United States opposes; elsewhere, a more low-key approach seems to be emerging. What is needed is a sustained policy of high-level engagement with Arab governments, along with support for openings that would bolster reformist groups, and a willingness to accept that genuine political change will be bumpy. Even this modest policy would represent a dramatic and difficult shift for the United States, especially as regional tensions increase.