Opposition to US starting Arab Spring claims–
There is considerable opposition to the claim made by many former Bush administration officials and others, that the United States is responsible for bringing democracy to the MENA states through the War in Iraq. Furthermore, there is even more rejection of the claim that the Arab spring is the latest illustration of the spread of Western democratic ideals. Senior fellow at the Brookings institute Jean-Marie Guehenno argues that the spread of the Arab spring is substantially different from the revolutions revolving around the end of the Soviet Empire. “The Arab Spring is about justice and equity as much as it is about democracy, because societies in which millions of young men and women have no jobs–and millions live with less than two dollars a day–crave justice as much as democracy.” Similar to that of the protest on Occupy Wall Street in New York City- ongoing in 2011, the Arab spring revolutions are just as much about opposition to dictators as it is opposing “profiteers.”
There is consensus that these revolutions, across MENA countries, are incredibly suspicious of foreign involvement and influence. This can be explained through the past many years that have implicated foreign powers “cozying” up to repressive dictators in order to maintain balance and stability in the MENA states while advancing their own interests in the region. This being the case, it is unlikely that any of the Western states would serve as the model or contribute significant influence to the MENA revolutionary states, rejecting the former claims.
If the United States and other Westerners are not going to serve as a major player in the region dictates that they should not be an benign actor but an active supporter. The United States should change its foreign policy to be a supporter of these “homegrown” revolutions and democracies. This being the suggestion on the table, one of the major problems of US foreign policy towards the MENA states is the United States depiction of the involvement of Islam in governmental structures.
French scholar Olivier Roy argues that the Arab revolutions will be of a post-islamist nature. The Western aversion to the role of Islam in the political debate makes all moderate involvement of Islam into political debate taboo. The fact of the matter is, it’s not about moderates and extremists, the role of Islam is prominent in most MENA states and the west should accept these Muslim values as similar to Christian and Jewish values having their place in Western political debates.
Extending from this suggestion, non-state actors like the Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream political movements that extend across regional states should be including the political discussion and not dismissed/silenced which has been the policy in the U.S. foreign policy in the past.
As author Jean-Marie Guehenno contends, “political processes will inevitably be messy, and we [the west] will be tempted, especially in oil-rich nations, to pick winners and manipulate outcomes.” Again, the west should take up a role as supporter of these revolutions but remain in the outskirts as the sentiment of the MENA states is that of up until this point the region’s future has been decided by foreigners since the end of the Ottoman Empire.
“The Arab Spring is 2011, Not 1989. Written by Jean-Marie Guehenno- op ed contributor to The New York Times. The author is a former United Nations under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, is a professor of professional practice at the Saltzman Institute of Columbia University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.