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In this chapter, I examine the evolution of US democracy aid in Egypt through the eyes of the diplomats, practitioners, and bureaucrats engaged with such efforts in Egypt. I focus on the practical construction of democracy aid on the ground and the struggles undertaken by different actors to implement aid programs in an authoritarian state. I examine how ideas, interests, and institutions engaged in such aid evolved since 1990s to shape a kind of reform more attuned to the commercial and economic interests of the US and Egyptian governments rather than those of citizens in the country. In the first section, I focus on the nature of authoritarianism in Egypt, tracing its origins since the Nasser era to describe how power has since been exercised and maintained. In the second section, I examine how US democracy aid evolved in Egypt, focusing on the debates and discussions at the inception of USAID’s programs.
This chapter introduces the argument and organization of the book. I explain the questions motivating the book, focusing on two that are puzzling in different respects. The first asks why democracy aid in the Middle East is seen as ineffective despite billions of dollars allocated for its promotion. The second question is linked to the first: Why would an authoritarian state even allow an outside actor to promote democracy? Examining the construction and practice of democracy aid illuminates why such regimes allow such aid as well as why particular ideas and conceptions about democracy persist even when shown to be ineffective. I introduce and explain the utility of a political economy framework that considers how ideas, institutions, and interests mediate and shape the form and function of democracy aid. I describe the methodology used in the book, which adopts an inductive, interpretative strategy to examine the construction and practice of democracy aid in the Middle East through case studies of US democracy aid in Egypt and Morocco.
To understand how democracy aid works in the Middle East, it is crucial to examine such aid at its origins in Washington, DC. In this chapter, I introduce the actors, institutions, and interests connected to the administration of US democracy aid over the last three decades. The voices and practices of those working on democracy aid seldom feature in most research on such aid. Engaging them illuminates the obstacles and challenges encountered by those working on democracy aid in different capacities within the US government. I trace the evolution of democracy aid from its inception to examine how ideas about democracy emerged, evolved, and were negotiated over time and cast light on the constellation of actors and structures militating against some forms of democracy over others. This chapter incorporates novel new data on the professional histories of nearly 2,000 professionals engaged in democracy promotion to map the influence of individuals in shaping ideas about democracy aid.
In the final chapter, I consider how the 2011 Arab uprisings challenged the strategies adopted by the United States and regimes in Egypt and Morocco. I examine shifting aid strategies from the United States and the response from former regime elites and emergent political actors. Drawing from interviews with diplomats and activists involved in transitional support and unreleased data, I consider how the ideas, institutions, and interests that supported a particular form of democracy aid for twenty-five years adjusted with the promise of political change. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the challenges these changes now pose for activists and emerging political actors in the region as well as policymakers in the United States and those embedded within the democracy bureaucracy in Washington, DC. The chapter’s final section revisits the questions raised at the outset of the book and discusses possible mechanisms for enhancing the effectiveness of democracy aid programs.
This chapter examines the political economy of democracy aid in Morocco in two sections. In the first, I focus on the context in which political and economic reforms began in Morocco and describe the foundation of authoritarian power in the country. The second section discusses the context in which US democracy aid began in the country. US democracy assistance in Morocco was executed later than similar efforts in Egypt and at significantly different funding levels. I discuss reasons for this variation as well as how that strategy was formulated over time. This section traces the United States’ increasing support in its democracy strategy for economic reforms over political aid for democracy that would mirror the regime’s own priorities and how its conception of democracy in the country changed to support the commercial and security interests of the regime and the United States.
In this chapter, I elaborate on the conceptual and methodological framework that I use to examine the construction and practice of US democracy programming in the Middle East. I highlight limitations and weaknesses with recent approaches to studying democracy aid and show that existing research on such aid elides the contested meaning of democracy itself as well as the assumptions underlying democracy aid projects. I argue that a political economy approach to studying democracy aid takes such meaning seriously while also giving us a nuanced understanding of the motivations and intentions of donor and recipient states. I develop a political economy framework that considers how ideas, institutions, and interests can mediate and shape the form and function of democracy aid. This framework allows us to capture the complex interactions between actors engaged in such efforts in what I call the micropolitics of democracy aid.
For nearly two decades, the United States devoted more than $2 billion towards democracy promotion in the Middle East with seemingly little impact. To understand the limited impact of this aid and the decision of authoritarian regimes to allow democracy programs whose ultimate aim is to challenge the power of such regimes, Marketing Democracy examines the construction and practice of democracy aid in Washington DC and in Egypt and Morocco, two of the highest recipients of US democracy aid in the region. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, novel new data on the professional histories of democracy promoters, archival research and recently declassified government documents, Erin A. Snider focuses on the voices and practices of those engaged in democracy work over the last three decades to offer a new framework for understanding the political economy of democracy aid. Her research shows how democracy aid can work to strengthen rather than challenge authoritarian regimes. Marketing Democracy fundamentally challenges scholars to rethink how we study democracy aid and how the ideas of democracy that underlie democracy programs come to reflect the views of donors and recipient regimes rather than indigenous demand.