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there was always the emergency escape-hatch of out-migration to the developed world, or at least, to a less chaotic world.Today, for the people of Africa and others, this option has been severely restricted and effectively no longer exists. Paradoxically, the African continent’s revolt against colonial powers provided a centralizing common cause to which all Africans could rally and feel committed.As a Top Secret National Security Council (NSC) briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”Continued and in some cases increased foreign assistance following the September 11th attacks had the benefit of giving “the United States leverage on key foreign policy issues, since it can make assistance contingent on cooperation,” notes a recent RAND report.But these assistance programs “can have a negative effect on democratic development by strengthening a state’s capacity for repression,” and as one study concluded “the more foreign police aid given [to repressive states], the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become.”With the arguable exception of Portugal, France stands unique in modern political annals in the powerful and seemingly inseparable synergy between itself and its former African empire.

All these occurrences, to one degree or another, are the result (intended or otherwise) of the convergent and cumulative manipulations of myriad domestic and extra-regional players, in frequently brutal pursuit of their individually perceived regional (and personal) interests.

The Times quotes Stephen Mc Inerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy explaining, “We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking.”Clearly, the recent onset of anti-government demonstrations against US client states, across Africa and the Middle East, has brought the blatant hypocrisy of U. foreign policy into uncomplimentary and certainly undesired focus and Washington’s foreign policy inconsistencies, in Africa and the Middle East most prominently, stand exposed.

Fundamentally, while various powerful elements of U. influence have been attempting to promote a wave of democratic revolutions in the regions, at the same time, equally powerful elements of Washington policy have worked to maintain regional status quo by providing substantial support for anti-democratic, albeit politically pliable, autocrats.

While ideally, the hopefully democratic institutions evolving will encourage and empower recognition of minority rights, cultural pluralism, gender equality, and equality under the law — this has not always been the case.

The persistent challenge always remains — even in the developed nations with democratically selected institutions — how to protect the rights of minorities and other marginalized groups, from both democratically imposed “tyrannies of the majority” and the frequently intolerant and authoritarian tendencies of absolutist religious belief.


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