Common Interests, Closer Allies: How Democracy in Arab States Can Benefit the West

By Jamie O’Connell, Senior Fellow, Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

“Common Interests, Closer Allies” analyzes the impact of democratic change in Arab countries on the national interests of Western countries, including the United States. It synthesizes empirical social science, social science theory, and policy analysis. Its key conclusions are:

Democratic change in Arab countries would advance Western countries’ key interests in the region, as well as their ideals. Western governments should consider it an important foreign policy goal.

  • Democracy would have a stabilizing impact inside Arab countries, reducing the risk of civil war and internal terrorism, at least in the long run and quite possibly in the short run. (See Part III.A, pp. 357-365.) The stability that serves Western interests does not require citizens to be politically passive. To the contrary, democratic political activity, including non-violent protest, promotes government responsiveness and accountability. The absence of such responsiveness and accountability have been primary causes of popular discontent and instability.
  • Militarized interstate conflict – such as war or the threat of force – would likely diminish over the long run as more Arab states became democratic. (See Part III.B, pp. 366-375, including original data analysis on incidence of militarized interstate conflict involving Arab countries.)
  • Terrorist attacks that originated in Arab countries and targeted Western interests would be likely to decline if Arab countries became solid democracies. (See Part III.C, pp. 375-379.)
  • In the long run, Arab citizens are likely to be better partners with Western countries than Arab dictators have been, if Western countries treat them as such. Thus Arab democracies’ foreign policies ultimately are likely to align better with Western countries’ fundamental interests in the region than Arab dictators’ foreign policies have. There is likely to be some divergence in the short term, however, and Western policymakers will have to overcome ordinary Arabs’ understandable skepticism about their intentions. Their first step must be to transform their attitudes and adjust their policies to demonstrate greater respect for Arab citizens and their priorities. (See Part IV.D, pp. 380-386.)

Western countries should not withhold support for democratization out of concern that elected Islamists will use state power to harshly oppress women and minorities. Substantial forces may inhibit Islamists from trying to do so, or from succeeding if they try. Furthermore, the alternative to supporting democratization would be counterproductive: continued or renewed autocracy is likely to strengthen Islamists’ support over the long run. Western countries should engage major Islamist groups, before as well as after they gain power. (See Part IV, pp. 386-398.)

Democratization processes will unfold unpredictably and may take many years (even decades). Those processes, their timing, and their short-term impacts on Western interests will vary by country.

President Obama’s apparent personal instincts about U.S. policy toward Arab democratization are correct: the United States and other Western countries should support Arab democratization, but carefully and with sensitivity to context. Western countries’ power is limited and they cannot be the primary drivers of change. Their efforts to shape events must be guided by subtle analysis of local power dynamics and of how their influence functions in each national context. (See Part V, pp. 398-404.)

Stanford Journal of International Law, July 2012

Available at

A Law Student’s Arbitration Clerkship in Singapore

By: Ariana Green, Guest Contributor

I lived in Singapore during the fall of my third year of Berkeley Law, spending part of my time clerking at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. Having spent almost four of my six pre-law school years living abroad (working as a journalist and on a Fulbright and a Gates Scholarship), I missed the adventure and discovery that comes with moving to a foreign country.

Life in Singapore as a lawyer-in-training exposed me to international law practice and also gave me a chance to travel the region and meet people from all over. Though I plan to join Cooley LLP as a corporate associate—doing transactional work for tech companies and startups—I want to be the kind of corporate attorney who understands dispute resolution. Many of the contracts I reviewed as a summer associate contained an arbitration clause, meaning that should a disagreement arise, the parties go to arbitration instead of seeking relief by way of the courts.

Arbitration is particularly suitable in situations where parties to the contract come from different countries, since arbitral awards have the potential to be enforced globally. Because arbitrations need not follow the same rules of procedure and evidence as trials, the process can be quicker. While court decisions are published and hold precedential value, arbitral awards are kept confidential. Arbitrations can therefore be a good choice for companies who do not want their dirty dispute laundry aired.

For disputes involving international parties, arbitration offers additional advantages. Courts in a given country employ local judges and apply local laws, but an international arbitration usually consists of one or more arbitrators appointed by each party, and the choice of applicable law should be indicated in the contract; it is frequently based on the law of the pre-selected location for the arbitration (for example, Singapore, London, New York etc.). Deciding on a jurisdiction and choice of law at the time the contract is signed provides clarity (ideally).

For law students who want to work abroad, I would highly recommend the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). As a law clerk at SIAC, and separately, as a clerk for a senior arbitrator whose office was down the hall, I had an opportunity to get involved with high-stakes cases involving many millions of dollars, not to mention professional reputations.

At SIAC, I assisted in the scrutiny of arbitral awards—a process much like fact checking in journalism. I edited the awards for content and style. My colleagues included one other law clerk, from China, and the full-time attorneys at SIAC, who hailed from Singapore, Korea, India, London, Belgium, and Canada. Some of them had been law firm attorneys and judges. Each of them had had fascinating life and work experiences to share.

These lawyers, the so-called secretariat, provide support to parties and arbitrators, making the process smoother for everyone. The secretariat gets very involved in the details of each arbitration and makes sure parties comply with rules, meet deadlines, and receive cogent awards.

SIAC organizes events as a way to keep its presence in the community and further dialogue about arbitration. I went to several of their half-day conferences, on issues of enforcement and other topics. I met attorneys working in international arbitration and hailing from even more countries.

As part of my Singapore experience, I clerked for a very in-demand senior arbitrator. I followed a case, start to finish, on jurisdictional issues and had the opportunity to prepare a memo before the hearing, then to attend the hearing and conduct research for the award. This process resembles clerking for a judge, but with an international bent.

Throughout my time in Asia, I also made an effort to connect with people working on startups and in the tech scene, per my post-law school career plans. Free lunches at Google Singapore, hearing entrepreneurs’ pitches, and sitting in on mentoring sessions with new businesses made my semester varied and always stimulating.

In choosing to work at SIAC, I wanted exposure to dispute resolution so that I can be a better transactional attorney—one who understands what can happen if disagreements arise over the documents we transactional lawyers draft. My time in Singapore gave me that, and so much more.


Ariana Green is a 2013 J.D. candidate at Berkeley Law School. Her journalistic writing has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Popular Science, and elsewhere. Her law-related writing appears in The Berkeley Technology Law Journal (2012). Starting in the fall of 2013, Ariana plans to represent emerging companies as a corporate associate at Cooley LLP in New York.

The Record: This Week in Review

Ireland Prime Minister Apologizes to Women and Children of the Magdalene Laundries

The Prime Minister of Ireland formally apologized to approximately 10,000 women who had served in the Magdalene Laundries.  A 1,000 page report revealed government complicity in the slave labor of women and children in Catholic Church-run institutions.  The Irish government is discussing a compensatory package for the survivors in an effort to make amends.  

New Peace Framework Signed for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Eleven African countries have pledged to not tolerate or support armed groups fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Furthermore, they have agreed to refrain from interfering with the Congo’s internal affairs.  The Congo suffers from persistent violence and this framework is a small step towards reducing that violence.

SCOTUS: Plaintiffs Lacked Standing to Challenge a 2008 Amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

The U.S. Supreme Court has released its decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the group of journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates challenging a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act lacked standing because their alleged harms were too speculative. The challenged amendment expanded the government’s authority to intercept international communications involving Americans.

EU Poised to Temporarily Waive Carbon Payments for Intercontinental Flights

The European Union will likely suspend for one year the requirement that all intercontinental flights using EU airports pay for their carbon emissions. The move comes in response to objections to the law from outside the EU and hopes that a global deal to limit airline carbon emissions can be reached. The suspension could be extended beyond one year if there is “clear and sufficient” progress toward a global deal. Any progress on such a deal would likely require a new interest on the part of the United States government in addressing this problem.

Kenya to Hold General Election Next Week; UN Officials Warn of Potential Displacement Crisis

UN officials are calling on the Kenyan government and international organizations to redouble their efforts to prevent violence and displacement in the wake of next week’s general election. After the last general election (in December 2007) 1,100 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 were forcibly displaced. Although a new constitution adopted in 2010 included political reforms addressing the 2007 election violence, the UN officials warn that the reforms have not been fully implemented and ethnic tensions have recently been on the rise.

IMF Paper Calls for Euro Area Banking Union

A recent IMF publication calls for a single supervisory and regulatory framework within the Euro Area for integrating European banking systems.  The paper calls for a “single supervisory mechanism” to oversee all Euro Area banks, in addition to resolution and wind-up powers for dealing with insolvent financial institutions. While this proposal builds on the European Council’s 2012 agreement on a similar arrangement, the IMF calls for substantially more focus on banking sector re-capitalization.

Jack Lew Sworn In As New U.S. Treasury Secretary

On Thursday, Jack Lew officially became the new U.S. Secretary of Treasury. Secretary Lew previously served as Chief of Staff for U.S. President Barack Obama and as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under former U.S. President Clinton.

European Parliament Approves Bonus Caps for Bank Employees

The proposed legislation will limit the bonuses that E.U.-based banks can pay their employees to twice an employee’s annual salary. This legislation would apply equally to employees of E.U.-based banks who worked outside of the E.U. (for example, New York or Singapore). The measure still has to be approved by the 27 member-states of the E.U., and Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has voiced concerns about the proposed measures.