Task Force: US Support for Arab Reform Critical to Winning War on Terror

A report from a task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations says U.S. support for democratic reform in the Arab world is critical to winning the war on terrorism and repairing America's image in the Middle East. 

The task force report says the Middle East will be a central focus of U.S. foreign policy for the next generation and beyond, and that Washington has the opportunity to help shape a more democratic region.

A co-chair of the task force, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, says the group generally supports the Bush administration's efforts to persuade Arab governments to accept democratic reforms.

"Support for democracy is an important tool in counter-terrorism and working in that particular way," she said.  "We also believe that the best stability is actually democratic stability.  Finally, support for democracy, we believe, will help restore America's credibility in the Middle East region." 

The task force says the United States should promote the development of democratic institutions over the long term, and that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside.

Task force members say America's goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.

Task force co-chair Vin Webber, a former congressman who is now chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, says promoting political, economic and social change in the Arab world requires a country-by-country strategy. 

"Because of the skepticism that people in the region justifiably have toward our motivations, and certainly even more so toward their own governments' willingness to reform, we need to make very concrete the direction that individual countries are taking," said Mr. Webber.  "While we understand that this should not be a straight-jacketed [inflexible] approach, a uniform approach, or what you might call a cookie-cutter approach, every country in the Middle East is different.  We believe that the United States should work with the governments in the region for each country to establish its own, as we would call it, a pathway to reform."

The task force found that Islamic movements and political parties are likely to play a prominent role in a more democratic Middle East.

Former Secretary of State Albright says Washington should support the political participation of any group or party that abides by the rules and norms of the democratic process.

"We do not think that the United States should deal with groups that are on the terrorist list, but we also think it is very important for us to recognize that peaceful Islamic groups are very much part of the process," she added.  "Policy-makers have to recognize, in any case, that armed organizations, such as Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, are already participants in the democratic activities of their societies." 

The task force also recommends that the U.S. government restore funds for the Voice of America's Arabic service, saying it should emphasize reform issues, in addition to providing news and information.

VOA's Arabic service was replaced several years ago by Radio Sawa, which uses a mix of popular music and regular news bulletins to target younger Arabs.

The report says the VOA Arabic service traditionally broadcast to a wider-range audience, including elites, and should become an integral component of Washington's public diplomacy strategy.

Task force members also say the United States should expand trade relations, military ties, and diplomatic support with Arab countries demonstrating democratic progress.

They say Washington should take steps to distance itself from governments that refuse, over time, to recognize the political rights of their citizens.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs