American democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa
American democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) aims to encourage governmental and non-governmental actors in the region to pursue political reforms that will lead ultimately to democratic governance. As an area of the world vital to American interests yet generally entrenched in non-democratic, authoritarian rule (with the exceptions of democratic Israel and semi-democratic Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian National Authority and Turkey), MENA has been the subject of increasing interest on the part of the American government and democracy promoters, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with many viewing democratic transition as essential to regional stability and international security.American efforts to promote democracy in the region are generally characterized by top-down and bottom-up democratization strategies, which can be pursued simultaneously. The former top-down approach involves putting rhetorical and diplomatic pressure on regimes to reform and can go so far as to involve direct American military engagement installing democratic government (as is the case in Iraq following the 2003 invasion). The U.S. government generally pursues the latter bottom-up approach by funding international organizations that help strengthen the bases for gradual democratic transition (the rule of law, accountable government institutions and expanded political competition) in the MENA region by offering technical assistance and training to political parties and electoral management bodies, engaging with civil society, producing assessments and polls, and promoting female political participation. Some have criticized American democracy promotion in MENA for ineffectiveness, a lack of consistency, taking a one-size-fits-all approach and using democracy to justify military intervention abroad.