On December 14, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that democracy in the Middle East was “non-negotiable.” Indeed, ‘nation-building’ efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have illustrated the Bush administration’s firm belief in so-called democratization projects. Unfortunately, this confidence is misplaced. In fact, empirical research shows that the democratization process is volatile and generally unsuccessful when imposed by an external, military force.
Current U.S. policy seems to overlook the research of scholars such as Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder who have shown that democratizing states are more likely to fight wars than non-democratizing states. In fact, approximately two-thirds of democratizing states are more likely to go to war than nations experiencing no regime change. In addition, given the ‘rentier’ nature of many Middle Eastern states, the democratization process is even more unlikely. Because most Arab nations are rich in oil, many Middle Eastern governments are not dependent upon their citizenry for financial support. As such, citizens have less motivation to hold their government accountable.
Ultimately, the current administration should reexamine their democratization efforts in the Middle East. Hopefully, the current nation building project in Iraq will not lead to additional military commitments in similar regions. In the end, democratization is not a cure-all for Middle Eastern hostilities, and the U.S. should realize that healthy international relations require constant care and management, and not a miracle makeover.