by Ari Shapiro
The Center for Jewish Civilization was honored to host Elliott Abrams on October 23, 2017 for a discussion in Riggs Library on his new book, Realism and Democracy: American Foreign Policy After the Arab Spring. Abrams is an adjunct professor in the CJC and a former White House advisor on the Middle East during the George W. Bush Administration.
Abrams spoke about the ideological dissonance of America’s support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East while also claiming to be the world’s representative of democracy, and suggested that this foreign policy was unwise from a realpolitik perspective. Interestingly, he argued that such regimes do not stifle the rise of Islamist and Jihadi groups in the region, but rather pave the way to their ascension by stifling moderate centrists, leaving such groups as the only viable alternative to the status quo. Furthermore, he insisted that rather than suppressing Jihadi ideology with authoritarian regimes, “to defeat it, it must be debated.”
After responding to a few questions from moderator and fellow regional expert, Ambassador Dennis Ross, Abrams fielded questions from students and other attendees, some of which addressed the unique internal legitimacy of Arab monarchies, and how, in the eyes of their people, these regimes have outlived the revolutionary fervor in the region by meeting the basic needs of their people in a way that the “republican” dictators did not. After the concluding remarks, Abrams signed copies of his new book for attendees.