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October 18, 2006

Black Coffee
Posted by Shadi Hamid

An article of mine on the US policy and the failure of Arab democracy is out today on Qahwa Sada. Qahwa Sada ("Black Coffee") is a new "blog-journal by Middle East experts" edited by Marc Lynch, aka Abu Aardvark. Check out the blog manifesto here. It's a great idea and hopefully it will catch on in the blogosphere. Here's an excerpt from my piece:

Ahead of his time, perhaps, but also behind it, USC economist Timur Kuran wrote in a provocative 1998 essay that “Arab regimes are highly vulnerable to a shock that would stimulate mass dissent. Indeed, even an ostensibly minor rise in open opposition within one Arab country might trigger a revolutionary cascade that then sets off similar cascades in others. Just such a domino process occurred in Eastern Europe less than a decade ago, when people within and outside the region marveled at the collapse of one communist regime after another. The scenario could be repeated in the Arab world”.

The “ostensibly minor rise in open opposition” happened not only in one Arab country, but in many. After 9/11, the Arab state system, long immune to change, experienced several of the “shocks” that Kuran believed would open up new possibilities. For a time, they did. Although we might not like to admit it, the unseating of the region’s most egregious dictator did, in fact, have a profound, if varied, effect on millions of Arabs.

Kuran also noted that “as conditions became more favorable to the expression of opposition, individuals would jump on the bandwagon for change, encouraging additional people to join in” (120). But the democratic openings of 2005, while real, proved unsustainable and easily reversible. Something, in other words, went wrong.  In a recent post on the Abu Aardvark blog, Marc Lynch posed the stickiness of Arab autocracy a “puzzle.” But is it really that puzzling?

Read the whole thing here.


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With all this talk about foreign policy, it's essential you see this.

Here at Public Agenda, we’ve released a report that will provide political bloggers with Americans’ opinions on foreign policy issues, and is certain to be a basis for political commentary.

In a world strewn with violence and highly-charged international issues, Americans are taking notice. Using our “Anxiety Indicator,” Public Agenda has found some hard-hitting trends in American opinions and fears regarding U.S. foreign policy.

Here at Public Agenda, we’re dedicated to finding out where the nation stands, and through the creation of our “Anxiety Indicator,” we’ve been able to do just that. Our findings are extensive and expose the fact that citizens are broadly uneasy about American foreign policy.

In fact, the public lacks confidence in the measures being taken to ensure America’s security. Less than 33% of Americans give the U.S. government an “A” or a “B” grade for its execution of the following foreign policy issues: reaching goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining good relationships with Muslim countries and protecting U.S. borders from illegal immigration. And these are just a few of the findings.

According to the indicator, eight in10 Americans feel the world is becoming a more dangerous place for Americans. The Foreign Policy Index also takes into account citizens’ feelings on 25 influential international issues. Want to learn more? Go to to download the report.

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- 83 percent say they are worried about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs (35 percent worry "a lot", with an additional 48 percent saying they worry "somewhat.")
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I think the best way to guard against international threats is to support the Millennium Goals. According to the Borgen Project $420 billion was spent on defense this year, but it would only take a $19 billion commitment from the US to end world hunger. I think a plan agreed to by every nation on the planet is our best recipe for safety.

Public Agenda has learned that the government agenda to increase the fear factor of Americans and thereby encourage increased government spending and domestic repression is working better than expected. Success!!
If you're not worried about terrorism you should be (OR ELSE). And don't travel to a foreign country--they all hate us and it's dangerous (leaves more room for me).

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