Why Democracy Promotion Does Not Confront Dictators

Sarah Bush, Temple University

In previous decades, government programs and non-governmental organizations often sought to foster regime change abroad by aiding dissidents and oppositional political parties. Today, a less confrontational style of democracy assistance is much more common. Sarah Bush explores the reasons behind this shift.

Using in-depth case studies of democracy assistance in Jordan and Tunisia along with primary documents from various non-governmental organization archives, Sarah Bush looks to explain the recent “taming” of global democracy promotion. In her new book, Bush finds that as today’s non-governmental organizations mature and professionalize, they seek out less provocative or risky means to their ends – and shifting donor priorities and the rapidly changing nature of target country’s political climates also contribute to shifts in how democracy promotion is carried out. In an interview in Cambridge University Press’s fifteen eightyfour blog, Bush examines the particular case of Tunisia, a star of the “Arab Spring” movement, and how democracy assistance efforts there may turn out to have mixed success.

Sarah Bush is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Temple University where her teaching and research focuses on international relations, democracy promotion, non-state actors in world politics, gender and human rights policy, and Middle East politics. She is particularly interested in the effects of American democracy promotion on public attitudes in the Middle East. Bush was previously the co-executive director of Americans for Informed Democracy, a non-partisan organization that trained more than 20,000 youth members to tackle social challenges from climate change to American relations with the Muslim world.

May 2015