[The American Conservative] Democracy, Really
A new book argues for democracy to remain a US objective in the Mid-East — despite its outcomes.
The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East and the Rise and Fall of an Idea. By Shadi Hamid. Oxford University Press (OUP); 345 pages; $29.99.
Looking back on the early 2010s, historians will struggle to name one US-based pundit who didn’t hail the Arab Spring as a harbinger of Western-style liberal democracy for the Mid-East and North Africa. The hubristic hope that Fukuyama’s end-of History was, twenty years overdue, finally reaching the Arab world infused all but a rare species of writers. One outlier is 40-year-old Shadi Hamid, whose idealism was tempered by a realist sense of democracy’s pitfalls in Muslim-majority societies. Born to Egyptian parents in Pennsylvania and a graduate of Georgetown, Hamid has been a hot fixture of Beltway liberaldom for a decade, serving as a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor to The Atlantic. The author, most recently, of The Problem of Democracy (2022), Hamid had freshly tied up his Marshall-funded doctorate at Oxford when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi famously protested the police’s confiscation of his wares by setting himself ablaze. Bouazizi’s self-immolation catalyzed mass protests regionwide against autocracy, corruption, and social inequities which overthrew despots in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. Some of those power vacuums, Hamid warned, would atrophy into endless cycles of instability — or be filled by Islamists.
Continue reading the entire book review at The American Conservative here.