Carpenter has devoted much of his life to promoting democracy and human rights. After graduating from the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies with a masters in international economics and European studies, he worked to promote democracy abroad with the International Republican Institute and as deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He then went on to join the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank dedicated to increasing security, peace, prosperity, and democracy" in the Middle East. As a Keston Family Fellow, Carpenter directed the Washington Institutes Project Fikra, a program designed to empower Arab democrats in resisting authoritarianism and religious extremism.
During the Arab Worlds ongoing protests and revolutions, Project Fikra has provided both political analysis of breaking developments and policy suggestions for US officials and emerging Arab governments. As demonstrated in Project Fikras publications on Egypt, emerging democracies in the Arab world must contend not only with dictators who ignore and suppress the views of the populace, but also with populist movements that fail to respect the rights of minorities. By providing the US government with accurate analysis and policy recommendations, Project Fikra seeks to enhance US efforts to navigate this paradigm and successfully support democratic reforms in the Arab world.
Carpenter continues to work at the Washington Institute as an adjunct fellow while at his current position at Google Ideas.