Democracy, but from Us?
Yttrup, Mary Beth, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
A delegation of young staffers-Carlton Cobb, Mary Beth Yttrup, and Erin Moran, -from the Council for the National Interest (CNI) left July 9 for a two-week stay in the Middle East. Nearly every person we spoke to expressed a similar opinion, articulated with varying levels of hostility and civility. After traveling to Egypt, Syria and the West Bank and speaking with academics, politicians, reformers, authors and humanitarians, one thing is painfully clear: people in the Middle East do not want help from the United States in reforming their political systems.
Mounir Abdel-Nour, vice president of Egypt's Wafd Party, held nothing back. One would think he would welcome U.S. pressure for change, but he informed us: "We know what's good for us. Our democratic process is none of your business. Leave us alone."
In much the same way, free-lance journalist Rhonda Roumani told CNI in Damascus that while many reformers were initially supportive of pressure from the United States, they never wanted President George W. Bush to tell them what their democracy should look like. True Syrian reform, she said, eventually would come from the people themselves, once they were ready: "When the system is unable to support itself," she explained, "then people will begin to talk about politics and demand change. …