America Should Support Tunisian Democracy

As America prepares to celebrate the anniversary of its independence, escalating fears surrounding potential armed conflict with Iran—along with ongoing conflicts in Libya, Yemen, and Syria—have dominated recent headlines. But there’s another country in the Middle East and North Africa that not only provides a sharp contrast to such negative current events, but also shares a set of common democratic values with the United States: Tunisia. While former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali may not have ruled his country as egregiously as King George III treated the American colonies, many of his abuses would sound familiar to our revolutionary ancestors. Ben Ali, like George III, prevented democratic elections and interfered with the judiciary, and neither the Tunisian despot nor the British king enjoyed the “consent of the governed.”

It has been eight years since massive demonstrations caused Ben Ali to flee the country. By happy coincidence, the U.S.-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue was scheduled to take place on July 2, the same date that the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain.  The session has been postponed due to the June 28 bombings in Tunis and the hospitalization the same day of the country’s president, who will turn 93 in November.  But the United States can honor the ideals of our Founders by supporting the Tunisian transition, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can help ensure the success of the rescheduled dialogue, by announcing several concrete initiatives.

For a French translation of this article, click here.

This article was originally published in The National Interest.