Academic journal article Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations

U. S. Science Diplomacy as a Seed for the Advancement of Democracy in the near East

Academic journal article Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations

U. S. Science Diplomacy as a Seed for the Advancement of Democracy in the near East

Article excerpt

The world may achieve prosperity when societies become more knowledge-based, and where scientific and technological advances, including meritocracy, can support democratic values. For years, historians, economists, and political pundits have argued that a new world order is emerging owing to a 20th century technology: the internet. Information transfer has been abundant, and allows oppressed societies to learn faster than ever about opportunities for social reform towards democracy: from Africa, to the Middle East, to India. In the Arab countries, it appears that U.S. policymakers are confronted with several major challenges: 1) managing disgruntled groups while some Arab patriots wish to adapt to more Western democratic values, 2) managing perceptions that American values are solely influenced by their energy needs to the point that they meddle in Near East1 politics, and 3) managing a fair and balanced approach to the cultural and general economic needs of Near Easterners such as water availability and food security. Undoubtedly, a prosperous country like the U.S. can appreciate wise statecraft, and can provide resources to promote stronger international relations in the plural societies of one of the "cradles of civilization", viz. the Near East. Each Arabic country is built on tradition; each Arab Spring in this region of the world has raised different social issues; and, each country modernizes at its own rate.2 Listening to the specific issues raised by thought leaders in this region lends one to appreciate that many Near Easterners (but not all) admire Western democratic values, and have satisfactorily "cherry picked" those values that can be adapted in their rigid societies. To this end, the U.S. can play a significant role in international relations of the Near East when orchestrated carefully and in a measured way, particularly if Near Eastern countries want it to happen.3 New, innovative approaches which can move the process along need to be identified, in a "soft power" manner rather than by military intervention. Science diplomacy, including technological transfer, maybe a worthwhile approach. Four questions, which pertain to the advancement of democracy in the Near East, and the role that science diplomacy can have in this process, are raised in this article.

WHAT ROLE, IF ANY, SHOULD THE U.S. PLAY IN NEAR EAST DEMOCRATIZATION?

Historically, we have seen that any transition from monarchies and autocracies to full-fledged democracies can be risky and fraught with political dangers. But often across the Near East, opportunities do arise with younger leaders who have been exposed to Western cultures and ideals than their forefathers. Each Near Eastern society is different: one approach for democratization in one country (perhaps in the Mediterranean Arab countries) may not work for other countries in the region (perhaps in the Gulf Arab States). America is a strong advocate for human rights, and has shown repeatedly that it can assist those leaders who embrace such values and promote modernization to advance their economies and the well-being of their citizens.4 America should also improve its public image in the Near East and assist the Arab nations with economic support and supplies. This assistance will help manage the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict, to wit ISIS, by supporting regimes that promote human rights and improve collaboration with other interested nations regarding the production of food, improving the quality of water and air, enhancing nutritional standards, and delivering needed medical supplies for the Near East. The United Nations, UNESCO and the citizens of the Near East are aware that a new paradigm is developing in this decade for such partnerships where the major objective is to improve the quality of life in the region, i.e. to improve education and job opportunities, provide better healthcare, provide adequate housing, and combat poverty.

History has proven that oppressed societies do not advance to the same extent as democratic societies. …

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