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Realism and Democracy

Book description

America is turning away from support for democrats in Arab countries in favor of 'pragmatic' deals with tyrants to defeat violent Islamist extremism. For too many policymakers, Arab democracy is seen as a dangerous luxury. In Realism and Democracy, Elliott Abrams marshals four decades of experience as an American official and leading Middle East expert and shows that deals with tyrants will not work. Islamism is an idea that can only be defeated by a better idea: democracy. Through a careful analysis of America's record of democracy promotion in the region and beyond, from the Cold War to the Obama years, Abrams proves that repression helps Islamists beat democrats, while political openings offer moderates and liberals a chance. This book makes a powerful argument for an American foreign policy that combines practical politics and idealism and refuses to abandon those struggling for democracy and human rights in the Arab world.


'Elliott Abrams has done the country another important service. This outstanding book reminds us that the enduring power of America is that, at our best, we see our interests as our values, and our values as our interests. Now more than ever, Americans and their leaders need to understand that support for human rights has been, and should remain, a key pillar of US foreign policy. This book could not be more timely or more significant.'

Senator John McCain - United States Congress

'Elliott Abrams gives us a brilliant review of the fight for freedom, showing with clarity what works and what does not. But even more, he highlights the possibilities for progress that may be gained from a determined, long-term strategy advocating democracy and human rights.'

The Honorable George P. Shultz - Hoover Institution, Stanford University

'A powerful and persuasive argument that realism as well as American ideals should lead us to support the struggle for freedom.'

Joseph Lieberman - former US Senator from Connecticut, Senior Counsel, Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres

'Since the 1980s, no US official has done more to advance the cause of democracy and human rights than Elliott Abrams. Here bringing his vast experience to bear on American policy in the Middle East, he makes a powerful, pragmatic case for promoting democratic reform in Egypt and other Arab autocracies. Sure to be controversial in the best sense - his arguments cannot be ignored.'

Robert Kagan - Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute, author of The World America Made

'America's greatest asset in world politics is its association with freedom. Elliott Abrams brings unique experience as an American official who understood the power of freedom - and realized that an American strategy to advance democracy advances American interests. Here he explains how men like Scoop Jackson, George Shultz, and Ronald Reagan worked to support liberty and democracy - and how to build on their legacy today, including in the Arab world. Every official in the State Department should be required to read this book.'

Natan Sharansky - Chairman of the Jewish Agency, human rights activist and former political prisoner in the Soviet Union

'(Abrams) has written a study of idealism vs. realism in American foreign policy from the Cold War through the end of the Obama years. The book is also, more specifically and more pointedly, a summary of the current debate over the proper role of democracy-building in US policy in the Middle East … Mr Trump should read.'

Source: The Wall Street Journal

'In the fascinating introduction to this book, Abrams traces his intellectual development and explores the roots of his worldview … Abrams forcefully rejects the argument that the so-called war on terror compels Washington to countenance Arab autocracies that join in the fight.'

Source: Foreign Affairs

'What makes especially edifying anything that Elliott Abrams writes on foreign policy - in addition to his insight, intellect, and wit - is that thanks to his Democrat-turned-Republican political pedigree, he has been involved in almost all of these fierce debates since the early 1970s … His account reflects an insider’s sensitivity, nuance, and appreciation of the human motivations that drove leaders at critical moments … Despite his career as a bare-knuckled activist, Abrams’ history of human rights and democracy in modern American foreign policy is rigorously analytical and passionately dispassionate: a true tour de force.'

Source: Mosaic Magazine

'Elliott Abrams makes a powerful argument.'

Source: Jewish Press

'Both a useful assessment of Arab Spring and what came next, and an insightful commentary on the nature of a world power and those who serve it.'

Source: Jerusalem Post

'A convincing case not only that democracy can succeed in Arab nations, but also that the United States has a crucial role to play in making that happen.'

Source: Atlanta Jewish Times

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