The Blogiston Post

Politics, money, and war.

Tuesday, April 15

coming soon: human rights and democracy

One cannot expect the White House administration to go in any particular order given their strange views on diplomacy. Rather, one should now expect a rather backwards approach. Right on cue, enter step one in diplomacy, two years too late.

Cue center stage spotlight. Enter benign diplomat with briefcase. Now that the culture of Iraq has been completely destroyed, and while the State Department still has everyone's attention, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) appears to be launching its first Request for Proposal.
Organizations may submit grant proposals that address programs and activities that foster democracy, human rights, press freedoms, women's political development and the rule of law in countries with a significant Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa, and where such programs and activities that would be important to United States efforts to respond to, deter, or prevent acts of international terrorism.
So thoughtful and caring to be concerned about the people of the Middle East. There's also an RFP for a $25 million shopping mall at the military base in Bahrain but I won't bore you with a link to that one.
SUMMARY of the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative

The U.S. -Middle East Partnership Initiative will provide a framework and funding for the U.S. to work together with governments and people in the Arab world to expand economic, political and educational opportunities for all.

- The Initiative will encompass the more than $1 billion in assistance that the U.S. government provides to Arab countries annually. The United States is also committing $29 million in initial funding for pilot projects in support of reform in each area listed above. We will also be requesting significant additional funds next year.

- The Initiative is a partnership and we will work closely with governments in the Arab world, other donors, academic institutions, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

- As part of the Initiative, we will review existing U.S. assistance programs in the region to ensure our aid is reaching as many people as possible across the region, with a particular emphasis on women and children. We also want to insure that we are providing the most effective and efficient assistance possible.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will serve as coordinator for the Initiative. The Initiative will be managed by the Near East Affairs Bureau of the Department of State.
Secretary of State Colin Powell introduced the MEPI in a speech at think tank Heritage Foundation back in December 2002.
I am pleased to announce the initial results of our work -- an innovative set of programs and a framework for future cooperation that we call the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative. The U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative is a bridge between the United States and the Middle East, between our governments and our peoples, an initiative that spans the hope gap with energy, ideas, and funding.

Our Partnership Initiative is a continuation, and a deepening, of our longstanding commitment to working with all the peoples of the Middle East to improve their daily lives and to help them face the future with hope. Just as our decision to rejoin UNESCO is a symbol of our commitment to advancing human rights and tolerance and learning, so this Initiative is a concrete demonstration of our commitment to human dignity in the Middle East.
Bit of a credibility gap there which Marina Ottaway covers in her thesis: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East: The Problem of U.S. Credibility available in pdf.

Ms. Ottaway writes that Arab mistrust of America's calls for democratization is summarized by three common arguments:
1. The U.S. talks about democracy to distract from a hidden agenda to support Israel and gain control of oil
2. The U.S. has always supported autocratic regimes in the region
3. If the U.S. supported democracy it would not disregard the rights of Palestinians.
She might want to add :
4. If the US supported democracy it would have protected the museums of Baghdad in addition to the Ministry of Oil and the oil wells.
But back to the think tank, the Heritage Foundation, where Powell introduced MEPI. They have a very interesting list of Middle East experts.

James A. Phillips
Research Fellow in
Middle Eastern Studies
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies
The Heritage Foundation

Dr. Patrick Clawson
Director for Research
Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Dr. Geoffrey Kemp
Director of Regional Strategic
The Nixon Center

Dr. Daniel Pipes
Director, Middle East Forum

Do a google on them over at Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and see what you find.

And because think tanks are always closely associated with public policy and money, well, a peak at Heritage Foundation would be remiss not to mention sponsor Bechtel Foundation. That's right. The same Bechtel, as in Bechtel Construction, where George P. Shultz sits on the board of directors and Gen. (Ret.) Jack Sheehan is a vice president. Both are members of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.

If you were like bpost, you probably thought Powell was just delivering a feel good do good speech. But where there's Bechtel, there's usually money to be made even if they do label it "humanitarian assistance".


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