Dr. Marina Ottaway, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Before joining the Carnegie Endowment, Dr. Ottaway carried out research in Africa and in the Middle East for many years and taught at the University of Addis Ababa, the University of Zambia, the American University in Cairo, and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
She specializes in democracy and post-conflict reconstruction issues, with special focus on problems of political transformation in the Middle East and reconstruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, and African countries.
Currently, Dr. Marina Ottaway is the Director of the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment and a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project.
Here she talks about the research focuses of the Middle East Program and the US and EU's role for the democratization process in Arab countries.
1. What are your current priorities in your work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace?
The Middle East program has focused from the beginning on issues of political reform. We have published two books and a large number of papers and policy briefs, and will soon publish two more books. We also publish a monthly online journal, the Arab Reform Bulletin, available on our website in English and Arabic like the rest of our publications. The purpose of the research on political reform is to understand the political actors that will determine whether reform will take place, including opposition parties. In this respect, our research has indicated the overwhelmingly important role of Islamic parties, and as a result we have researched, and will continue to devote much effort to researching, Islamic parties. This research is carried out both from Washington and Beirut, but predominantly from Washington.
A second focus of research, also carried out both in Washington and Beirut, concerns the changing role that countries of the Middle East, and in particular of the Gulf, play in international relations. The policies of Arab countries are evolving rapidly, becoming much more independent and assertive. This is affecting of course the United States and European countries. Research so far suggests that the new policies of Arab countries are not anti-Western, but that they challenge the way in which Western countries have related to the Middle East in the past.
The third focus is on economic issues. This work is mostly carried out from Beirut, where we are building up a team of economists. We are currently working on the impact on the region of investments by oil producing countries, on the implications of the growing strength of Arab Sovereign Wealth Funds for the West, and on the impact (or lack of impact) of economic growth on the region's socio-economic problems.
2. How do you think the US and Europe could advance the democratic reform in Arab countries?
The challenge of democracy promotion faced by Europe and the United States are different. European countries have consistently followed a low-key, non-confrontational approach through the Barcelona process, which has not stirred resentment but has had limited impact. The long term perspective of the Barcelona process is commendable, but the approach needs to become more assertive. The United States has approached democracy promotion with a lot of high level rhetoric, goals that could not possibly be attained, and a short term perspective. Not only the approach has not resulted in increased reform, as our research indicates, but it has angered many Arab governments and even decreased US credibility among Arabs who want reform. As a result, it has all but been abandoned in practice.
The first step for the United States is to restore its credibility. Both Europe and the US thus badly need to rethink their approaches. Note that, while it would be desirable for the United States and Europe to coordinate their policies so as not to work at cross-purposes, the possibilities of close cooperation is limited by the differences in the way policy is made in the US and Europe, with a short US time horizon and a much longer European one, and also by the difference in the way countries on the two side of the Atlantic relate to the Arab world.
3. What is the greatest challenge to the transatlantic relationship today?
The greatest challenge to the Transatlantic relation is the change taking place in the world. The end of the Cold War eliminated the strongest factor that cemented the Transatlantic alliance, the fear of the socialist bloc. The alliance was further weakened by the Bush administration's unilateralism, resulting from its perception of its overwhelming military superiority. This unilateralism, and the resentment it created in Europe, were brought out clearly by the war in Iraq. We are now entering a second post-Cold War phase, in which the illusion of unipolarity has vanished and the world is becoming increasing multi-polar as a result of the emergence of new economic and to some extent political centers in China, India, the Gulf, and Brazil. It is still difficult to predict what impact this new situation will have on the Transatlantic alliance, but relations are likely to become increasingly complex.
Recent articles, testimony and commentary from Dr. Ottaway are available here.