Abrams, however, is undeterred, and his case is simple: promoting democracy is not only right, it is also the smart thing to do.
Indifference to democracy, he argues, in addition to jettisoning our core in stability.
Here, Abrams’ poster-child for successful Islamist integration in politics is Tunisia’s Ennahda party.
He writes about the cautionary phone calls he received from a variety of policy intellectuals—this was after he himself was back in private life and at the Council on Foreign Relations—warning against the Council’s intended hosting of a lunch for Rachid Ghannouchi, the party’s leader.
But no one should miss Abrams’ 91-page introduction.
This introduction is not your typical after-the-fact effort by an author trying to impart a semblance of methodological coherence to the often disparate chapters that will follow. In illustrating his theme, Abrams gives us a ringside seat to a succession of battles royal, from, in the 1970s, Henry “Scoop” Jackson vs. détente, with Soviet Jewish emigration being a key flashpoint, to, in the 80s, the policy wars over the Communist threat in Central America (Nicaragua, et al.), to, again in the 80s, the debate over the wisdom or lunacy of Ronald Reagan’s ideological insistence on labeling the USSR an “evil empire,” followed in the 90s by the debate over the wisdom or lunacy of NATO expansion and in the 2000s by the skirmish over the pursuit of democracy in the Middle East.To advocate true democracy in the Arab world—which means, Abrams stresses, not just (nominally) free elections, and emphatically not just a rhetorical appeal to respect human rights, but a sustained and determined commitment to the peaceful contestation for power—is a tough sell at the best of times.In the wake of the “Arab Spring,” a half-decade that witnessed some of the greatest human suffering in modern Middle East history, it is tougher still.To follow Abrams’ personal intellectual history and political maturation is thus to trace an important piece of the past half-century of intellectual and political thinking in America.And that opportunity is again on offer in his new book, The book’s largest section, at 153 pages, is devoted specifically to the ups-and-downs of American democracy-promotion efforts in the Middle East.He is also right to focus on the need to protect the key groups—like religious and ethnic minorities or hardy bands of democrats—that are most likely to suffer under authoritarian regimes projecting a false choice between democratic progress and internal “security.” And he is right once again to conclude, from the less than stellar record of democracy-promotion efforts by the U. Agency for International Development, that non-governmental institutions are better suited to the nuts-and-bolts work of helping to build political parties in the inhospitable environment of most Arab states. Highlighting the power of American presidents to trigger change is well and good; but presidents come and go, and worse, often shift priorities over the course of their terms in office.That was the unfortunate case, for example, with the George W.As important as it is for democrats to win votes, it is at least as important for Islamists to lose them, peacefully and through a consensual political system.By definition, however, that requires Islamist participation.Bush administration, which reached the high-water mark of White House commitment to Middle East democracy only to let it recede in the latter part of the president’s second term when the Iraq experiment foundered.This ebb and flow, inherent in our system of government, is just one factor that ultimately limits the influence the U. can exercise on politics in other countries, Arab autocracies being no exception.