Sep 24, 2008
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In the wake of September 11 through the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy has been that promoting democracy in the Arab world is an important strategy in reducing terrorism; at the same time, some policymakers and analysts have held that democracy has nothing to do with terrorism — or even that the growth of democracy in the Middle East may exacerbate political violence. However, scant empirical evidence links democracy to terrorism, positively or negatively. This study examines whether such links exist by exploring the effects of liberalization processes on political violence in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco from 1991 to 2006. Drawing on data on the incidence of terrorist violence, extensive fieldwork and interviews in each of the six countries, and primary and secondary literature from and about each country, Kaye et al. find that political reforms have, in some instances, helped to marginalize and undercut extremist actors, but that these effects tend to be short-lived if reforms fail to produce tangible results. Moreover, when regimes backtrack on even limited openings, the risks of instability and violence increase.
“Democracy” and Terrorism in the Arab World: A Framework for Analysis
"As the title implies, the authors set out to rigorously examine what has largely been a hunch of those who support democracy promotion: More open and democratic political systems may not resolve the problem of terrorism, but progressive political change will likely reduce the number of individuals attracted to extremist ideologies and political violence. . . . To their credit, the authors recognize the limitations of their analysis. They cannot really know whether more democracy decreases terrorism because none of their case studies — Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco — are democracies… Still, Kaye et al.'s findings are interesting; they confirm some prevailing notions about the effect democratic change can have on political violence while undermining others … Policymakers, analysts, and other observers of ter¬rorism and the Middle East would be wise to learn the lessons ‘More Freedom, Less Terror?' offers. "
- Middle East Journal, Spring 2009