When to Worry in the Middle East

In a recent speech, Martin Indyk, national security advisor for Near East and South Asia, stated that the United States should “help the people and governments of the Middle East to confront this emerging threat [of radical Islamic fundamentalism], in part by pursuing peace with vigor, in part by containing extremism throughout the region, and in part by holding out an alternative vision of democratic political development and free market economic development.“’ It is important to consider the Islamic fundamentalist threat, the arguments for accommodating and confronting radical Islam, and the potential conflict in U.S. policy that might occur by encouraging democracy in the Arab world on the one hand, and containing radical Islamic fundamentalism and promoting the Arab-Israeli peace process on the other. The Islamic world brings into question Washington’s easy assumption that the promotion of democracy is inevitably in the national interests of the United States. In some countries, the risks of democratization may be worthwhile, but, in several Arab countries, where the United States has other vital interests, fast-track democratization may undermine those interests.

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