American Democracy Promotion and the ‘Arab Spring’

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In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the United States increasingly sought to promote democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). However, although this strategy came to be largely associated with the invasion of Iraq, and the belief that a benign domino effect would spread throughout the region, there was far more nuance to the policy President Obama inherited. President George W. Bush‟s democracy promotion legacy is one of institutional construction within the US foreign policy bureaucracy, creating the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA), and the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative (BMENA). Furthermore, it was President Bush who codified his democracy promotion strategy in National Security Presidential Directive 58, entitled Institutionalising the Freedom Agenda, and who signed the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007 into law.1 By the time that President Bush left office hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent on promoting democracy in the MENA, and the US had declared with the force of law that it would prioritise, along with other foreign policy goals, the promotion of democracy and human rights around the world.

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