Carnegie Endowment Report Outlines Collapse Of Middle East NPR'S Audie Cornish talks to Marwan Muasher, co-author of the Carnegie Endowment report called "Arab Fractures," about the crumbling of political institutions in the Middle East.

Carnegie Endowment Report Outlines Collapse Of Middle East

Carnegie Endowment Report Outlines Collapse Of Middle East

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NPR'S Audie Cornish speaks with Marwan Muasher, co-author of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report called "Arab Fractures," about the crumbling of political institutions in the Middle East.


The Middle East is facing what a new study calls a collapsing regional order. The Arab Spring may have swept away authoritarian regimes, but they weren't replaced with what a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the region needs - pluralistic societies with minority rights. The study's called "Arab Fractures." Marwan Muasher is a co-author, also a former deputy prime minister of Jordan. It came out just as the Trump administration announced a ban on travel from several Middle Eastern countries - a ban Muasher says affected his colleagues.

MARWAN MUASHER: It really has. We have a number of colleagues who have dual citizenships from part of the countries that have a travel ban. All of them are calling for a pluralistic and moderate future for their countries. If these voices are not heard here, this is basically a favor to ISIS, who wants to argue that there is a clash of civilization between the West and the Muslim countries. And a travel ban like this probably adds to this argument.

CORNISH: You know, what does a Trump presidency, with its declaration of an aggressive war against radical Islamic terrorism that - they're very specific about saying those words - what does that mean for the prospects of stability there?

MUASHER: I'm afraid that's going to make things worse if the Trump presidency only focuses on military force alone. We all remember in 2007 when the United States was able to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq, only for us to see that al-Qaida's successor was even more radical, worse organization with ISIS. The point being that unless you follow up military force with a inclusionist policy, defeating a military organization like al-Qaida, in itself, is not going to solve the problem. This is the lesson that I hope the Trump administration will get to understand very quickly.

CORNISH: You talk about the shift that authoritarian regimes of Arab countries are going through with their people - with people saying, like, the old way of doing things does not work because you're corrupt. You're not making good on the economic promises you gave us, and we want a say in how the country's run. Do you see the voices that are calling for a pluralistic society really breaking through?

MUASHER: There are already some breakthroughs. Tunisia has been able to - despite the considerable differences between the secular and religious forces in the country, has been able to arrive at a negotiated social contract that basically protects the rights of each component of society, including full women rights and the right to believe or not to believe.

So policies of exclusion are - I'm saying 20th century politics (unintelligible) - they don't work anymore. And the sooner Arab governments understand that from now on, if they want to keep their power, they have to share it, the quicker we can transition to better systems.

CORNISH: But is it naive for people in the U.S. or other places who say, look, maybe democracy isn't going to take, so to speak, in the way that we recognize it?

MUASHER: Of course, it is naive. Look at a place like Latin America, which is close to home here. You know, the United States has not exactly been impartial in intervening in many of Latin America's countries. Almost all of Latin America were governed by dictators 30 or 40 years ago. Today, Latin America - the overwhelming majority of countries in Latin America is democratic today. So it is not impossible to move from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones, but it's also not an easy or a quick process. This is a process that I'm afraid will take decades at best.

CORNISH: Marwan Muasher is director of the Middle East program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

MUASHER: Thank you.


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