November 28, 2023
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Middle East Institute
1763 N St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (Map)

In The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea, author Shadi Hamid explores what he describes as the ‘democratic dilemma,’ the U.S. desire for democracy in theory but not in practice. Hamid cites the rise of Islamist parties during a wave of democratic elections across the Middle East, which he argues produced outcomes the U.S. was not intending, such as the empowerment of Hamas in Gaza following the 2006 Palestinian elections. 

Reviewing the lessons learned from the past two decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East, Hamid proposes ‘democratic minimalism’ as a new approach to democracy promotion. Instead of viewing democracy as a tool to usher in liberalism, economic development, and cultural progress, Hamid argues that democracy as an end in of itself should be prioritized over other liberal values.

Please join us at the Middle East Institute for an in-person discussion with author Shadi Hamid and Thomas Carothers, Co-Director and Senior Fellow, Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on the strategy of U.S. democracy promotion abroad, the consequences of the democratic push in the early twenty-first century and the future shape of governance systems globally. Gönül Tol, MEI Senior Fellow and Director of the Turkey Program, will moderate the discussion. 

The discussion will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Please read Hamid’s review article in the Middle East Journal. 

The Oman Library Book Talk Series features in-person conversations with distinguished authors who explore the politics, history, and culture of the Middle East through analysis, memoir, and fiction.

Featured Speakers

Shadi HamidShadi Hamid headshot
Columnist and Editorial Board member, The Washington Post; research professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Seminary

Shadi Hamid is a columnist and member of the Editorial Board at The Washington Post, where he focuses on culture, religion and foreign policy. He is also an assistant research professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Seminary. Previously, he was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Hamid is the author of several books, including most recently, The Problem of Democracy. His previous book Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World was short-listed for the 2017 Lionel Gelber Prize for best book on foreign affairs. In 2019, Hamid was named one of the world’s top 50 thinkers by Prospect magazine.

Thomas CarothersThomas Carothers headshot
Harvey V. Fineberg Chair for Democracy Studies; Co-Director and Senior Fellow, Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Thomas Carothers is a senior fellow and co-director of Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. Carothers is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He has worked on democracy assistance projects for many organizations and carried out extensive field research on aid efforts around the world. He has been a visiting faculty member at the Central European University in Budapest, Nuffield College, Oxford University, and Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Gönül Tol, moderatorGonul Tol headshot
Senior Fellow; Founding Director, Turkey Program, Middle East Institute

Gönül Tol is the founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program and a senior fellow with the Black Sea Program. She is the author of Erdogan's War: A Strongman's Struggle at Home and in Syria. She has taught courses at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies and at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University on Turkey, Islamist movements in Western Europe, world politics, and the Middle East. She has written extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, Turkish domestic politics, and foreign policy and the Kurdish issue. She is a frequent media commentator.