Matthew Levitt from the Counter Terrorism Blog writes at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on dealing with the rise of Islamist political parties or governments in post revolutionary Middle East:
As the administration considers the differences between global jihadist terrorist groups and politically inclined Islamist groups, it would do well to reread British prime minister David Cameron's recent speech in Munich. Cameron cautioned that while Islam is not the problem, Islamist extremist ideology is. And as one moves along the spectrum of Islamist ideology, one will encounter both violent and nonviolent extremists. Both, Cameron stressed, are cause for concern.(...)
As Cameron goes on to say, many who enter into the violent extremist groups started out in non-violent extremist groups and eventually traversed the divide to active warfare and terrorism. Levitt goes on:
"If our policy can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," stated the same anonymous official cited by the Post, "we won't be able to adapt to this change" presented by the Jasmine revolutions. In fact, to adapt to these changes and be on the right side of history, what the administration really needs to do is consider what the appropriate threshold should be for partnering with the United States and participation in the democratic system.
Levitt goes on to finish by outlining what some of these "threshold" line items might look like including personal rights, women's rights, honoring international borders and treaties, etc. These are admirable goals. It may not be the right way or only way to establish economic or defense ties, but it should always be part of our "conversation" and we should always be on the look out for ways to support groups, organizations or political parties whether materially or morally. We should always be ready to speak to our allies or potential allies on those points and consider to what extent we would be willing to invest in the nation.
In short, the defense and proliferation of political, personal and economic freedom should be one of the main pillars of our foreign policy. Not only because it is "the right side of history" as the spread of freedom and democratic revolutions have continuously gone forward in the last thirty years, but because the proliferation of freedom is the most viable and long term policy for our own defense and economic prosperity as well as meshes with our own ideology and moral position as these first free nation and the leader of free nations.