US 'Democritization' Initiative in the Middle East is Insincere:
An Interview with Mark Weber

An interview with the director of the Institute for Historical Review was published in the Tehran Times, a leading English-language daily paper in Iran, in the issue of Sunday, July 3, 2005. Here is the item as it appeared on the front page, continuing on to page 15. The text is also posted on the website of the Mehr news agency, in English, and in Farsi.

GMEI intended to further U.S. and Israeli interests in region: Weber

American 'democratization' effort is hypocritical and insincere

Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN -- The Mehr news agency conducted an interview with Mark Weber, the director of the Institute for Historical Review, on June 21 about the democratization of the Middle East under the name of the Greater Middle East Initiative. This is the text of the interview:

Q: Recently there has been more discussion of the "Greater Middle East Initiative." What do you think of this plan?

A: The "Greater Middle East Initiative" (GMEI) is part of an ambitious U.S. effort by President George W. Bush and his administration to further U.S. and Israeli interests in the region. The thinking behind the GMEI is that if the governments of the region are more "democratic," "open" and "free," their populations will more readily accept US and Israeli policies.

This initiative is based on two false assumptions. The first is that widespread distrust of and hostility toward the United States is based on ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding. In fact, anti-American sentiment is an entirely understandable consequence of, and reaction to, destructive and inhumane U.S. policies in the Middle East, which for the past half-century have been subordinate to Israeli and Zionist interests. Not only in the Middle East, but around the world, distrust of the United States has been growing because U.S. policies, especially in the Middle East, increasingly conflict with the interests of other countries.

It is worth recalling that until the founding of the Zionist state of Israel in 1948, popular sentiment in the Middle East was generally quite sympathetic to America. In the decades since then, and as a consequence of U.S. support for Israel and its policies, the good will of many millions of people in Arab and Muslim countries toward America has been replaced by distrust and hostility.

The second false premise of the "Greater Middle East Initiative" is that "free," "democratic" and "open" societies will automatically be more friendly to the U.S., and more accepting of American and Israeli policies.

Recent experience suggests that the opposite is true. In countries where popular sentiment has been able to express itself politically, the government is usually more anti-American. This is true not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Moreover, the Middle East governments that are most cooperative with the United States and Israel are notably non-democratic and unrepresentative. Only two Middle East countries -- Egypt and Jordan -- have concluded peace treaties with Israel. Neither is "democratic" in any meaningful way. Indeed, popular sentiment in each country rejects recognition of the Zionist state. Another Muslim country that has been closely cooperating with the United States is Pakistan, whose leader, Pervez Musharraf, came to power in a military coup.

The GMEI is doomed to failure because it is based on false premises, and because it ignores the historical background to the problems of the region, above all the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Highlights of U.S. policy in the Middle East during President Bush's administration have been the invasion and occupation of Iraq, continued backing for repressive regimes, and ardent support for Israel's policies of oppression and dispossession. Given this record, one can only be deeply suspicious of the motives of the Bush administration in presenting the GMEI or any similar U.S. proposal for "reform" or "democracy" in the region.

In light of the Bush administration's record, the world might more readily welcome a "Greater American Initiative" to reform the United States.

Q: Given the real situation in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, how can "democratization" in the region be measured?

A: Every successful government must be at least somewhat "democratic." If it is to be effective, durable and legitimate, a government must have at least some measure of popular support. But "democracy" is an elusive concept. In any given country, the concept of democracy inevitably reflects the heritage, cultural standards and popular outlook of that country.

To judge one society by the standards of another is both ignorant and arrogant. President George W. Bush is just about the last person to legitimately give lectures to other countries about "democracy," given that he was elected president in November 2000 with fewer votes than his opponent, Al Gore.

Americans like to think that the USA has always been "democratic," even though for most of its history the majority of the American population had no political power. (Women were not permitted to vote in U.S. presidential elections until 1920.) And few Americans like to be reminded that for many years slavery was legal in the United States.

When a nation is in a severe crisis or faces a threat to its existence, it understandably adopts "undemocratic" polices. During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, for example, President Lincoln -- who had been elected by a minority of the popular vote -- adopted many illegal and unconstitutional measures that he believed were necessary to preserve the United States.

Q: Some analysts believe that the U.S. has given a green light to President Hosni Mubarak to crack down on opposition in Egypt. Given this, how do you assess prospects for "democratization" in the Middle East?

A: For decades the central motive of U.S. Middle East policy has been to support Israel and Zionist interests in the region. This is a consequence of the Jewish-Zionist grip on American political and cultural life. Washington is fearful of a genuinely popular government in Egypt because such a government would be hostile to Israel.

Whether or not the White House has given a new green light to Egypt's President to crack down on the opposition, it is obvious that the U.S. will continue to back President Mubarak, even when he acts brutally, as long as he is able to insure that Egypt is no threat to Israel.

To suppose that the United States, or any outside power, can impose its own notion of democracy or freedom on another country is both arrogant and stupid. Every nation naturally has its own concept of a just and free society.

In the short run, the prospects for democratization in the Middle East are poor, because the U.S. will continue to carry out policies in the region that are motivated primarily by concern for Israel. In the long run, though, the prospects for more representative governments in the region are good, because American power, in spite of the current scale of U.S. military might, will certainly decline, at least in relative terms, over the next 10-20 years.

Q: Is the U.S. move for "democratization" based on a double standard?

A: Yes, the American "democratization" effort is hypocritical and insincere. If the United States were to hold Israel to the same standards that it held Iraq, and is now holding Iran, American war planes would be bombing Tel Aviv.

Around the world, there is almost universal rejection of American and Israeli policy in the Middle East. This is reflected in numerous votes in the United Nations General Assembly, where -- time and time again -- the United States U.S. and Israel are alone against the rest of the world.

This reflects not only sentiment around the world, but a real and growing conflict of interests. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the occupation of the country since then, has been contrary to the interests of all countries except Israel. War against Iran, which the U.S. and Israel have been threatening, would likewise be not only criminal and destructive, but would serve the interest of no country except Israel.