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Foundation for Defense of Autocracy

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George W. Bush & Hosni Mubarak.jpg
George W. Bush and Hosni Mubarak. White House photo by Eric Draper. Public Domain.

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy says the quiet part loud:


The authoritarian turn of FDD, such that it is, will surprise absolutely no one; the Foundation has long been committed to the support of autocratic regimes in the Middle East, as long as those regimes support US and Israeli foreign policy goals. Ten years ago, I attended an FDD-sponsored workshop in Israel, and it was one of the most productive experiences of my professional life; we got to see the functioning of the Israeli national security state up close and personal, and get a real sense of how the bureaucracy thought about threats from Palestinians and from Iran. It was painfully obvious, however, that “democracy” was not on the menu; the Israelis made clear that they believed the biggest US mistake in Iraq had been the effort to install democratic institutions in the country, and everyone regularly toasted the health of Hosni Mubarak.

Nevertheless, it is a touch surprising to see the mask drop; Mark has traditionally made a lot of hay over the idea that what FDD really wants is a democratic Iran, or a democratic Syria, or whichever other war he’s favoring on that particular day. See for example my 2012 Bloggingheads convo, in which he stays on point:

In some sense, the authoritarian preferences of FDD are emblematic of the broader contradictions in the jewel of the neoconservative program; the invasion of Iraq and consequent installation of a democratic government. Promising to make the former contingent upon the latter was key to making the case for war; I think that it was, for many, even more important than the WMD justifications. And I think that this was so not merely as a rhetorical gambit; political leaders were captivated by the potential for a democratic Iraq, and even many of those who had no particular interest in Arab democracy were willing to invest in the possibility. The idea of a democratic Iraq as bulwark of US policy in the region helped people ignore the obvious problems that would be introduced by creating a prostrate Iraq, namely the necessary increase in Iranian power and influence across the region.  In the end, the war created an Iraq that is simultaneously too weak to defend itself, and too democratic to act as a proxy for US and Israeli security interests.

All that said, FDD is not without its merits.  The junket to Israel, as noted, was genuinely interesting and intellectually productive. And over time, interesting people have worked at FDD, and interesting work has been done.  It’s just never really been about defending democracy in any kind of meaningful sense.

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