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Global Security Seminar

March 15 – American Overreach? Evaluating US Middle East Policy with special attention to recent events in Egypt

When: Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 6:30 PM
Where: UCLA Faculty Center
: RSVP to by March 14, 11am with your selection of $33 dinner/$38 dinner with dessert. Please bring your check payable to “Michael Intriligator,” your UCLA host. Parking is available at Structure 2, near the Faculty Center, at the corner of Hilgard and Westholme. Parking fee is $10.

American policy in the Middle East designed to advance democracy and/or “moderation” tends to yield outcomes that frustrate the aspirations of local actors while undermining the values purportedly being promoted by the US. One explanation for these results is that the attempt to connect democracy promotion to long-standing American geostrategic commitments in the region has produced a set of internal contradictions. In a recently published article in Geopolitics, Aslı Ü. Bâli, Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, argued that “democracy promotion” has frequently devolved into a simple defense of American interest by promoting electoral outcomes intended to strengthen local agents seen as compliant with US regional priorities. In this context, the oscillation between democracy promotion and a policy of pursuing “moderation,” understood as support for American policies, is coherent but ultimately unstable and often comes at the expense of the democratic aspirations of local actors. Recent events in Egypt highlight the trajectory of American policies identified in that article. In the initial Obama administration to events in Egypt, American rhetorical commitments to democratic reform have given way to an emphasis on order, stability and moderation when confronted with the possibility that preferred local allies might be replaced by parties selected for their responsiveness to local demands rather than external regional priorities. Applying the argument developed in the Geopolitics piece, Bâli suggests that the U.S. approach to Egypt of “orderly transition” is deeply problematic and that the U.S. should move toward a fuller embrace of democratic transformation despite the potential short-term impact on other regional priorities. In developing this point, Bâli examines how the U.S.’s language of “moderation” — so common with respect to the Middle East over the last decade — is being employed to defend regimes that are profoundly immoderate and in ways that over the long run actually undermine regional stability.

THE SPEAKER: Aslı Ü. Bâli is Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, where she teaches in the international and comparative law program. She joined the UCLA faculty from the Yale Law School where she served as the Irving S. Ribicoff Post-Doctoral Fellow in Law. Professor Bâli holds a J.D. from the Yale Law School and a Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Prior to her academic career, she practiced law in international organizations – including both the United Nations and the World Bank – and a private law firm in New York and Paris. She is currently on the Advisory Committee of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch and chair of the editorial committee of Middle East Report. Her research interests include public international law, arms control, human rights, humanitarian law and the comparative law of the Middle East.

Organized and sponsored by PSR-LA, Michael Intriligator (Professor of Economics, Political Science and Public Policy, UCLA and former Director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations; Senior Fellow Milken Institute), and Bennett Ramberg (Seminar Director, is a former State Department policy analyst.)

Click here for a full list of previous Global Security Seminar speakers.

[googleMap name=”UCLA Faculty Center” description=”480 Charles Young Dr. East, Los Angeles, CA, 90095″ width=”500″ height=”500″]480 Charles Young Dr. East, Los Angeles, CA, 90095[/googleMap]

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