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Can Washington Win Over the Arab Street?

It's Not Who We Are, It's What We Do

Author: Amaney Jamal
September/October 2013
Foreign Affairs


In my book Of Empires and Citizens, I argue that at the height of the period of authoritarian rule in the Middle East, Arab societies were divided between those people who benefited from their leaders' relationship with the United States, and therefore sought to preserve the dictatorships, and those who did not, and therefore sought democracy. For the pro-U.S. camp, which was mostly comprised of the affluent, the U.S.-backed regimes brought the stability necessary for economic growth. This group feared that democracy, which could bring to power anti-American Islamists, would weigh the economy down. The other camp, meanwhile, saw the United States as the primary underwriter of repression.

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