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Unformatted text preview: Jennifer L. Windsor Promoting Democratization Can Combat Terrorism Copyright © 2003 by The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Washington Quarterly • 26:3 pp. 43–58. T HE W ASHINGTON Q UARTERLY ■ S UMMER 2003 43 Jennifer L. Windsor is executive director of Freedom House, a nonpartisan organization that promotes democracy and human rights, in Washington, D.C. C an promoting democracy prevent renewed terrorist attacks against the United States? Although cynics may scoff, democratization has gained credence as a counterterrorism strategy in the aftermath of the Sep- tember 11, 2001, attacks. The underlying logic is that democratic institu- tions and procedures, by enabling the peaceful reconciliation of grievances and providing channels for participation in policymaking, can help to ad- dress those underlying conditions that have fueled the recent rise of Islamist extremism. The source of much of the current wave of terrorist activity— the Middle East—is not coincidentally also overwhelmingly undemocratic, and most regimes in the region lack the legitimacy and capacity to respond to the social and economic challenges that face them. Although not without risks, and only if pursued as part of a broader strat- egy, democratization can help reshape the climates in which terrorism thrives. More specifically, promoting democratization in the closed societies of the Middle East can provide a set of values and ideas that offer a powerful alter- native to the appeal of the kind of extremism that today has found expres- sion in terrorist activity, often against U.S. interests. The United States has launched a score of important post–September 11 initiatives to promote democratization in the Middle East. To be most effec- tive, the United States must further strengthen diplomatic efforts that dem- onstrate to the people and the governments that human rights and democratic practices are a U.S. priority and must cohesively integrate those diplomatic messages with foreign assistance strategically directed to strengthen the forces for democratic reform within the region. l Jennifer L. Windsor T HE W ASHINGTON Q UARTERLY ■ S UMMER 2003 44 Terrorism and Democratization: The Missing Link? Terrorism resists simplification and easy explanation. Its causes are multifac- eted and complex, and any single response to terrorism will yield only partial results. Thus, a comprehensive, dynamic policy response to combat terror- ism is necessary. This article focuses on just one important part of that policy: the promotion of democratization. Just as the thesis that poverty causes terrorism has been debunked—the masterminds of the September 11 attacks came from the wealthy and more privileged elements of society— one cannot maintain that the absence of democracy directly explains the causes of terrorism. Countless repressive countries have not generated ter- rorist movements; conversely, terrorist groups, including Islamic extremists,...
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