Monday, May 19, 2014

The 'democracy deficit' in the Middle East

It is difficult for me to get on board with some of the statistical data presented by the various political theorists because statistics do not include the values of historical events from a realist perspective, nor the individual situation, domestic wealth distributions, exact natural resource relation to foreign policy, and the domestic and international interests of each state studied.

There are no general policies outside of empty rhetoric, such as better education, that can be inducted across the Middle East to reduce the “democracy deficit” because democracy, specifically representative or parliamentary democracy, is generally a tool of capitalist interests.  No 100% real democracies exist.  Monarchies, authoritarian leaders and dictators survive in the Middle East within the structure of capitalist globalization because “several are major oil-producing states, of course, but even the non-oil-producing monarchies are recipients of substantial subventions from foreign friends and patrons” (Anderson, p.1, 1991).  It would also be unfair to ignore the blatant bias against monarchies that is heavily portrayed in the American media aimed to elicit “American skepticism about monarchy” (Anderson, p.2, 1991).  A good portion of Middle East monarchies themselves were created through “British imperial policy” (Anderson, p.3, 1991) and were a result of “the formation of new states and the building of new nations” (Anderson, p.3, 1991).  I strongly agree with “the claim that oil and democracy do not mix is often used by area specialists to explain why the high-income states of the Arab Middle East have not become democratic” (Ross, p.325, 2001) because these states have negotiating leverage, possessing a natural resource that the capitalist west requires.  As long as these monarchial leaders maintain pro-western and pro-global free-market positions while eating from the hand of the International Monetary Fund, they are tolerated and even supported by the west through foreign aid.  When those leaders begin to complicate western interests, like Gadhafi or even Assad, they are branded as dictators and there are usually western calls for regime change.  Gadhafi was removed because the permanent members of the UN Security Council were generally on the same page with individual state interests, but the Assad government in Syria presented a split between the interests of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and therefore we witnessed a civil war in Syria with permanent members of the UN Security Council simultaneously funding both sides of the violent struggle: the Assad Government and the rebel opposition.

We should now contemplate the “resource curse” discussed by Ross which describes how “many of the poorest and most troubled states in the developing world have, paradoxically, high levels of natural resource wealth” (Ross, p. 328, 2001).  This is quite a natural phenomenon under globalization as once a state is opened to International Monetary Fund debt and opened to foreign investment, natural resources are transitioned into private sector profits which results in massive capital flight and the accumulation of the remaining domestic capital by domestic ruling elites (which is an unequal wealth distribution which occurs anywhere Capitalism is present because capital is required to generate capital).  The capital flight that middle east states experience is a result of being used by a capitalist ‘rentier’ state, defined as “European states that extended loans to non-European governments” (Ross, p. 329, 2001) for capitalist “pipeline crossings, transit fees, and passage” (Ross, p.329, 2001).  Even the definition listed by Ross is nearly fifteen years outdated because today it is the IMF extending conditional loans to boost free market profiteering while individual capitalist states provide foreign aid to protect private investments, such as the annual 2 billion dollars a year that the U.S. provided Egypt during the Mubarak reign and the annual 3 billion dollars a year that the U.S. provided to Israel (via domestic lobbyist organizations such as AIPAC).

There are no policies to promote democracy because the strongest capitalist democracies fund and economically exploit the authoritarians and the monarchies.  As history illustrates, “authoritarian states in the Middle East and North Africa profited from the cold war, reaping patronage from eastern and western great powers (sometimes simultaneously) in return for the promise of reliable alliance in the fight for or against Communism” (Bellin, p. 148, 2004) and the same profit game has been played during the international War on Terror.  The bottom line is that pro-democratic states with the most capital provide authoritarian states with “western support, at times in very generous proportions, because of the belief (perhaps mistaken) among western policymakers that these regimes would be most likely to deliver on western security concerns by assuring regular oil and gas supplies to the West” (Bellin, p.148-149, 2004).

Capitalist democratic states themselves cause the democracy deficit in the Middle East, and they do so for a profit.


Anderson, Lisa.  1991.  “Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East.” Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 1 (1991): 1-15.

Bellin, Eva.  2004.  The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective.  Comparative Politics, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jan., 2004), pp. 139-157

Ross, Michael.  2001.  Does Oil Hinder Democracy?  World Politics, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Apr., 2001), pp. 325-361


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