It turns out that the United States hasn’t completely given up on efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Secretary of State Hillary was in Morocco today to meet with the Arab league about democracy.
Apparently, Hillary thinks that Morocco is a model:
Clinton kicked off the day with opening remarks that held up Morocco as an example for positive reform in the region. She recalled a visit to the country 10 years earlier, when she met an illiterate father who had supported his daughter’s aspirations of becoming a doctor. She also spoke of “devout women” who had gone on to become human rights advocates.
“Examples like these remind us there (is) much in Morocco’s experience that we can look to to guide our efforts today,” she said.
Michael Posner, assistant US secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said on Monday that the Obama administration would use “principled engagement” to encourage regional governments to adopt democratic reforms – “both to provide security and at the same time to build democratic institutions that protect their own people.” Posner said that change “occurs from within society” and is “very hard to impose from outside.”
Hicham Houdaifa, a commentator with Moroccan magazine Le Journal that recently had its bank account frozen by Moroccan officials, says he was “disappointed” that Clinton did not address the issue of press freedom. In the lead-up to the forum in Morocco Reporters Without Borders sought to draw attention to a recent crackdown on the Kingdom’s press, but was prevented from holding a press conference by Moroccan officials.
Freedom House gives Morocco, which is a hereditary monarchy, middling grades on freedom and transparency. But I guess that makes it better than, you know, Syria.
Meanwhile, a recent internal audit of USAID funding to Egypt says that it is, for the most part, ineffective. USA Today reports:
More than $180 million in U.S. foreign aid to promote democracy in Egypt over the past four years has produced few measurable results, in part because the Egyptian government has stymied the effort, a newly released government audit says.
The “impact of (American-funded) democracy and governance programs was unnoticeable” in Egypt, said the report by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general. USAID auditors based their conclusions on international indexes of press freedom, corruption, civil liberties and political rights.
Then again, the US can’t afford to piss off crucial, albeit authoritarian, allies like Egypt. And Jordan. And Morocco, for that matter. So when the Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor says (quoted in CS Monitor story) that the US needs to use “principled engagement” and that democracy is “very hard to impose from the outside,” what he really means is it can’t be too much of a priority.