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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bloglogue:75 Million Dollars For Democracy!

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Question: What do you think about US project to invest 75 million dollars to promote democracy in Iran? Will it be productive or not?

Bloglogue wants to create a digital bridge between bloggers & non bloggers to discuss about different subjects.We expect more than simple comments.Email:Faridpouya@gmail.Com


Dr.Huchang Nahavandi,Former Minister of Shah and a prize winner intellectual from French Academy, says US knows many thing about Iran but they don't have much knowledge about Iranian society.Launching a few new "made in USA" radios, or searching for new Ahmad Chalibis, won't work out with Iranian people and it is only going to fortify Islamic State.




Ahoo, US based Iranian blogger says

For the past 27 years Iranians have been bombarded by Islamic Republic’s propaganda against America. As someone who has finished all her elementary and part of her secondary schooling in Iran I witnessed many flag burning ceremonies! On countless occasions flags of America and Israel were burnt in my school. When we gathered for morning assembly school officials mandated students to repeat these slogans such as “Down with America” or “ Down with Israel” several times before we were dismissed to go to class. At that time Iran was in war with Iraq I wonder why we never said “ Down with Iraq”!! I just want to enlighten the extent of anti U.S propaganda in Iran. All these did not affect me. I love America and I love Israel. But do I represent the majority of Iranian youth? definitely not. I have lived in America for the past 12 years and I have visited Israel many times. A lot of people in Iran wrongly hold U.S responsible for the revolution. In general a lot of Iranians hold America responsible for what ever goes wrong in Iran! America should spend this money on propaganda. And it better be a strong propaganda. It takes a lot of work to neutralize what Tehran’s regime has done in the past 27 year.
sincerely
Ahoo


Christian Alexander,an American blogger shares his idea and agrees with Mary joyce who
posted previously her thought:

Good question!

For the most part I would have to agree with many of Mary Joyce’s criticisms. I think that while this tactic is preferable to military intervention and regime overthrow, past experiences with U.S. political aid projects and Iranian conceptions of Western interference makes the task a highly difficult one. I personally think that much of this money could be spent better elsewhere, and indeed that much of this money could potentially harm the democratization process in Iran. However, I am optimistic that aid could be used in a positive manner.

Joyce has already mentioned U.S. government aid projects such as Millennium Challenge Account. I agree that the bureaucracy and politics of determining who gets the money presents itself as a appreciable problem (I would question Bush’s requisites for “secularism” however). I would also add that government organizations such as USAID have had problems in the past in determining what NGOs are even legitimate. In places such as Georgia and Lebanon (I’m sure many more places, but I know of specific instances in these two countries) many pseudo NGOs have been set up with the specific intent of defrauding foreign aid organizations. In Georgia, U.S. aid has in some cases sabotaged organic NGO organizations by creating a dependence on foreign money. The lack of access to domestic civil society would magnify these problems in the case of Iran. I am not saying that aid is a bad idea, but simply reiterating the issues that need to be thought through.

I think that what is especially important in the case of Iran is the historical role the U.S. has played and how its interactions with the Iranian political system has been used by successive generations of policy makers. For the last several decades the common political war-cry has been one of staunch opposition to imperialism and foreign dominance. Increasingly, it seems that the Islamic regime’s use of this tactic as a justification for oppression has become worn out. However, misappropriated aid could re-legitimate this accusation and re-invigorate an anti-American form of nationalist sentiment in the population.

On a positive note, I think that one can certainly look towards the increase in access to media sources as having a positive effect on the political situation in Iran. Scholars have already noted the liberalizing influence satellite television and Internet access has had, despite attempts by the government to ban or censor both. It seems that the development of media access therefore would be a good use of money. However, it is important to note how this media has impacted the Iranian population. Polemics espoused from L.A. based monarchist satellite T.V. channels are at best laughed at and at worst used as a justification for the ban of satellite antennas. Political messages have not been effective. Rather, it has been the debates that have arisen due to the increased access to information, entertainment and alternative perspectives that have had the most important effect on political developments in Iran.

In general, there are a few effective uses of aid money. Financing increasing access to independent media is probably a good idea. Increasing dialogue is also a good idea (With this in mind I think Rice’s proposal to bring more Iranians over might be a good idea. What do other people think of this?). I think however that the U.S. government should be very cautious in spending its money to no or bad effect.

Respectfully, I'd disagree with Ahoo's analysis. While I agree that the Iranian population has been continually fed a healthy dose of anti-American propaganda, from what I've read and have been told, a majority of the population doesn’t hate America (in fact, I’ve heard the opposite). I might agree that they misunderstand US society and culture, but it seems that they see anything that opposes the regime as positive. That’s just the overwhelming sense ’ve gotten. Perhaps my perception is skewed because I know very little Persian, and because I have much more contact with the online Iranian community.

I’m not sure how much biased propaganda would actually help. I do think more independent sources of information would help, however.




Mary Joyce,Blogger & Editor of Demologue.com,writes Who Will Receive America's Democracy Dollars?

Although I do not believe that the $75 million requested by Secretary Rice to support Iranian dissidents will be effective in speeding the arrival of liberal democracy in Iran, I do agree with the principle behind the funding. Currently, America spreads democracy (or tries to, at least), but giving contracts to American organizations that go into a country and carry out support programs aimed at key institutions in the target country (ie, parliament, civil society, the judicial system). In this scenario, most of American funding goes not to the citizens of the target country, but to the American companies (contractors) working there.

It is my opinion that this method of spreading demoracy is ineffective. I cannot think of an instance where American support clearly led to the democratization of a country. In the cases of Russia (which is slipping back into authoritarianism) and Ukraine, American support was only effective because there was a strong native structure pushing for democracy. Thus, I support the idea of giving money directly to credible local activist groups, because I believe that local activists, rather than foreign NGO's, are the most effective force for democracy in any given country.

This being said, I doubt that the $75 million (if Secretary Rice indeed receives it) will be used effectively. Instead of choosing the most effective pro-democracy organizations with the broadest support, the State Department will probably set up a series of organizational and ideological criteria which only a small number NGO's (non-governmental organizations) will be able to meet.

First, it is likely that these criteria will exclude the best grassroots organizations in favor of organizations with a familiar organizational culture. What I mean by this is that America likes to fund organizations that have American structures (annual reports, a clear chain of command, a clear mission statement, etc,) The problem is that in many countries, even effective NGO's are not so formally organized and thus will lose out on America's largesse. In addition, the State Department is likely to set up ideological hurdles, such as support for the Bush administration and complete secularism, which are unlikey to be met by the best grassroots organizations in Iran.

I believe that, if this plan goes through, it will be similar to America's Millennium Challenge Account, a development fund with so many conditions for aid recipients to meet that so far only eight countries have benefitted from the program. The Iran aid program is likely to be similar, with the best grassroots programs refused funding because of technicalities while ineffective but officially-sanctioned programs benefit. Because the best Iranian democrats will not be supported, Iranian democracy too will remain a distant dream.


Sampsa,a blogger from Finland,shares his opinion with us:In the past, US has had little success in propaganda war. As I posted yeaterday, people in Afganistan and Iraq feel that their intelligence is being insulted with news they know is not correct.

Like mentioned in the Washington Post article,
US should fund already existing Persian media, who know the target audience, the country and the day to day life. US should also remember that "winning hearts with minds" is a slow process. It hasn't been mentioned what is the timeline to use this 75M.

Let's hope that Bush regime is serious with this propaganda tactic and does not use it just to be able to say "nothing else worked, we had to bomb".


The Spirit of Man,a Canada based Iranian blogger,writes An article appeared on The Washington Post web site regarding the possible US aid to the democratic movement in Iran and it reminded me of the discussions I have had with number of leftist Iranians living in exile telling me that this sort of aid will only alienate the democratic forces inside of Iran and will let the mullahs accuse them of having ties with the Great Satan.

I totally disagree with this defeatist mindset as I do believe that freedom has its own price and if we want it, then we have to pay the price for it as much as possible.Please Read More in The Spirit of Man

21 Comments:

Blogger Winston said...

I have already discussed this in my own weblog!

That is a very good sign showing us how mature the US foreign policy has become since Sep.11 attacks and how open their eyes are and it is so good that they want to talk to the iranian people!

12:40 AM  
Blogger Winston said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Sampsa said...

In the past, US has had little success in propaganda war. As I posted yeaterday, people in Afganistan and Iraq feel that their intelligence is being insulted with news they know is not correct.

Like mentioned in the Washington Post article,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/19/AR2006021901154.html
US should fund already existing Persian media, who know the target audience, the country and the day to day life. US should also remember that "winning hearts with minds" is a slow process. It hasn't been mentioned what is the timeline to use this 75M.

Let's hope that Bush regime is serious with this propaganda tactic and does not use it just to be able to say "nothing else worked, we had to bomb".

1:50 AM  
Blogger آهو said...

Dear Christian,
What I wrote is based on my personal observations in Iran and based on what I read in many Iran based Persian blogs. Lets not forget the fact that now we are facing two destructive powers in Iran: Hezbollah and Nazism. I have come across hundreds of Nazi blogs in Iran. Many Persian youths are literally worshiping Hitler. I wish I could be as optimistic as you are, but based on many things I read in Farsi blog I am not.

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I still continue to expand this

HERE

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