Monday, September 17, 2012

Jason Brownlee's "Democracy Prevention"

Jason Brownlee is Associate Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance, and reported the following:
Democracy Prevention uses archival materials, the Wikileaks cables, and interviews with top U.S. and Egyptian officials to document the partnership between the world's oldest democracy and one of its most resilient autocracies. Cairo receives nearly $2 billion annually from Washington, making Egypt the most U.S.-aided autocracy in the world. Today the crucible for the next phase in U.S.-Egyptian relations is the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and neighboring Gaza Strip, to which the book turns on page 99.

The contemporary partnership began in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter brokered peace between Egypt and Israel. That diplomatic breakthrough coincided with systematic repression in Egypt. The combination of bilateral cooperation and durable authoritarianism persisted through the pinnacle of U.S. democracy promotion, George W. Bush's "Freedom Agenda." Even when Bush publicly encouraged democratic reforms in Egypt, he feared losing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence apparatus.

At page 99 the book begins tracing the decline of the Freedom Agenda in a chapter titled "Gaza Patrol." Primary records show how U.S. decisionmakers placed Israeli security ahead of local and regional democracy. This attitude was on full display after the Palestinian election of 2006:
On January 25, 2006, more than three-quarters of voters in the Palestinian Authority turned out to choose 132 Palestinian Legislative Council members. The vote was peaceful, internationally certified, and highly competitive. Hamas… beat President Abbas’s Fatah party by 3 points in the national popular vote. Electoral rules… magnified this narrow margin into a 56 percent majority (seventy-four seats). Hamas could choose the next prime minister and cabinet. The elections bookended the Freedom Agenda. In 2002, the White House advocated elections in the Palestinian Authority to marginalize [Palestinian chairman Yasser] Arafat. Four years later, free and fair voting had carried a U.S.-designated “foreign terrorist organization" into the political mainstream.
In response, the Bush administration abandoned its democracy rhetoric and leaned on Mubarak to deliver security in the Gaza Strip. Congress even attempted to condition U.S. aid to Egypt—to defend Israel from Palestinian rockets, not to protect Egyptians' human rights. Page 99 previews the chapter's discussion of this move:
In 2007, U.S. congressional representatives stipulated that Mubarak must reform the judiciary and police to receive the full amount of aid. They focused their conditionality proposal, however, on the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, which was responsible for all of Egypt’s external borders. By withholding a portion of military aid, Congress sought to impel the Egyptian army to destroy underground tunnels that circumvented an international blockade on Gaza and allowed smugglers to bring in arms and supplies.
The attempt at conditioning aid rankled Mubarak and his lieutenants, who saw their country shrinking from a regional power into a neighborhood cop. As the remainder of the book makes clear, even after Egyptians ousted Mubarak on February 11, 2011, U.S.-Egyptian relations continued to revolve around the plight of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.
Learn more about Democracy Prevention at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue