Democracy Arsenal

« BREAKING: McCain Said He Will Pick Cheney For VP | Main | Palin as VP »

August 28, 2008

How Much Does the Middle East Matter?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The rise of "declinist" literature (that’s not really a word, is it?) has been well-documented by others - these efforts aimed at recording (or perhaps inviting) the end of the American era. The gist is of the thesis is that America will remain strong, but will increasingly find itself challenged by rising powers, among them China, Russia, and India. America's declining influence under Bush is, it seems, often used a pretext to advocate correcting our seeming obsession with the Middle East and shifting our focus to "broader" global threats. I got a weird feeling the other day when I saw the following comment from Ezra Klein:

The Middle East has sort of overwhelmed all other foreign policy issues over the past few years, but with the Iraqi government now demanding we pull out by 2011 and Bush basically agreeing to that, that state of affairs will quickly ease and other issues will take preeminence.

I find this to be a troubling line of argument, because it presumes that the Middle East wasn't that much of a problem before Iraq (or even 9/11), when in fact it was. The problems we face in the region today - whether it be religious extremism, sectarianism, terrorism, or general economic stagnation - are products of the pre-9/11 era, when Republicans and Democrats alike supported misguided, sometimes destructive, policies toward the region. To think that once Iraq is "solved," we'll be able to, in some sense, wash at least one of our hands of the Middle East overlooks the fact that the region was, is, and will continue to be dangerous, independent of the Iraq war.

The reasons for the Middle East failings are deep-seated, with a long history. Iraq is very small part of this history. A bigger part of that history has to do with the continued failure of ostensibly secular "pro-Western" regimes to provide basic services or basic freedoms to their own citizens. It also has to do with the fact that the U.S. has supported Arab autocrats at the expense of Arab publics for decades. While we have ignored hundreds of millions of Arabs, they, it seems, have not ignored us. We failed to realize that the internal character of states is not only an internal matter. What goes on inside Middle Eastern countries - the ongoing political and ideological battles between secularists, leftists, moderate Islamists, radical Islamists, Salafis - affects us, our allies, and our interests. If anything, this should be a prime lesson of the last 8 years.

Let's go back now to the issue of how much U.S. policymakers should be focusing on the Middle East. The problem with the Bush administration wasn’t that it was overly focused on the Middle East; it was that it was overly focused on the Middle East, and managed, at the same time, and somewhat amazingly, to make it even more screwed up than it already was. The latter part – rather than the former – is where we went wrong. The correct corrective, therefore, is not to decrease “meddling” but rather to address the region’s myriad problems not by engaging less, but by engaging better.

The Middle East is worse off more now than it was in 2003, and this means that the problems arising from this region are likely to increase in the coming years and decades. We cannot simply ignore them or “manage” them. We need to find creative – and, God yes, peaceful – ways to address them, solve them even, where we can.

There was once much talk about democracy in the Middle East. Now, not so much. This isn’t surprising. People got burned out by all the “reform” talk, reform that led to nowhere. The Bush administration was serious about reform for all of, what, like 10 months in 04-5? So many of us lost faith in the possibilityreal change in the region, all the while losing faith in Arabs themselves and their own desire for democracy. We said it was too early. We decided to wait, until they were ready, or perhaps – more accurately – until we were. And while we’ve turned away, the situation continues to deteriorate. We ignore it at our own peril, and at theirs too.

I’ve been living for the past 5 months or so in Jordan and a bit in Egypt. It is a tragic, frightening picture, if only because the picture is not so clear at first blush. But there is a sadness here, a sense that something has been lost. Here, sadness turns more often than not into apathy. Other times it turns into anger.

Jordan is now less democratic and more repressive than probably at any time in the last 20 years. And not just me, but many others, have said that the situation for both the secular and Islamist opposition in Egypt is probably the worst it’s been since the terror of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the founding father of Arab dictatorship.

Sadly, as the political situation gets worse in the region, our policy recommendations become less bold. This is the opposite of what it should be. Of course, foreign policy idealism is no longer popular, and that is fine, only if we recognize that the region is changing, and so must we. I will devote my next few posts to documenting some of these changes, many of them troubling, but luckily not all of them. Stay tuned.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How Much Does the Middle East Matter? :


You're overreacting Shadi. Nobody is saying the Middle East will cease being a very important place for US policy makers after we disengage from Iraq, but only that other places issues will then be able to assume the attention they deserve. Klein predicts other issues will take "preeminence". He doesn't say that means the Middle East will disappear from the radar screen.

Obviously, so long as we are dependent on resources from the Middle East and its environs, these are going to be a places that Washington can't ignore. On the other hand, I think you should be a little more circumspect about the easy moves you make from descriptions of various problems in the Middle East to implications about problems we face in the Middle East. Not every Middle East problem is our problem. And not every problem is the result of western intervention. The Middle East was full of bad governments and economic stagnation even before Napoleon landed there.

But there is a sadness here, a sense that something has been lost.

Hey, sounds like America. Ever since September, 2001, I've had this grief-stricken feeling that my country is dying, and that something has been irretrievably lost.

From his perspective, Shadi Hamid is not overreacting at all. He really does believe the Middle East is more important than other regions of the world -- not just more than any one of them, but more than all of them put together. He really does believe that all its problems are not only America's problems, but are primarily America's fault. Finally, he believes in a specific course of action for the United States in the region that would involve us intimately, and permanently, in the internal politics and society of every country there.

This is pretty much the opposite of what I think about the Middle East, but my point here is only that simply being a "very important place" for American policymakers will never be enough for people who view the Middle East as Shadi Hamid does. Having said that, I should say also that his post and Shawn Brimley's earlier today about the Status of Forces negotiations with Iraq are a pleasant respite from the otherwise unremitting and grimly repetitive election campaign advocacy that took over this site some time ago.

Shadi's back, and he's better than ever.

The ME is an American problem, because more than any other country the US has contributed to the conditions that Shadi writes about. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran -- all have been negatively affected by wrongful US foreign policy. Military action, financial & political support, foreign military sales, blind support for Israel -- the methods have varied but the results have been similar -- rightful anger toward the powers that keep people down.

People in the ME have been told to expect more freedom, not less.

"Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe -- outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity, and fear and silence. Yet, these regimes cannot hold back freedom forever -- and, one day, from prison camps and prison cells, and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive.

"The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind."--President Bush, November 6, 2003

Sure. Tell that to the Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Saudis and Palestinians. And to the Iranians and Somalis, for that matter. They're not stupid, they know what's going on.

The answer is not neo-internationalism or neo-liberalism, with more American hegemony, it's engaging with the governments and citizens of these countries, including their opposition parties, to move away from bad policies and partnerships with repressive governments, and rather develop partnerships in a myriad of channels, governmental and otherwise, that will benefit people.

I bet that's sort of where Shadi is going with this.

Maybe what you might have also said, Shadi, is that we should admit to the extent of our current political involvement in the Middle East. It's hard to argue about improving how we're involved OR make serious suggestions to end that involvement if people are in denial about how much we are actually involved, which I think most Americans are (I say in denial, because the evidence of our extensive involvement is not hard to come by--any ignorance here I think must be considered willful).

Nobody is saying the Middle East will cease being a very important place for US policy makers after we disengage from Iraq, but only that other places issues will then be able to assume the attention they deserve. Klein predicts other issues will take "preeminence". He doesn't say that means the Middle East will disappear from the radar screen.
People don't say this but it's clear from their actions, from how much time and attention people give to our foreign policy towards the Middle East, vs China, Russia, etc. The gist of the Democratic message is usually slight disentanglement (via energy independence) and putting the Middle East lower down the list of Scary Things. The paradigm that the Middle East is only relevant when it's dangerous, when there are "extremists", is not challenged. It still amounts to denying that Middle Easterners have real motives and interests that motivate their actions.
Finally, he believes in a specific course of action for the United States in the region that would involve us intimately, and permanently, in the internal politics and society of every country there.
Withdrawing from involvement in Middle Eastern politics would be an incredibly radical change to our current policy. Our foreign policy discussion so far includes only two choices, one is the Democratic option of partial disentanglement, but without changing the basic policies of supporting dictators and enabling the Israeli occupation (am I allowed to talk about that here?), the other choice is aggressive militarism. The problem with the Democratic approach is that it denies the extent of our current involvement. It's tantamount to saying "screw those people, they're all crazy and I don't want anything to do with them", then continuing to pursue harmful policies, then being surprised when something comes back to bite us in the ass years later. "What did we do to provoke this?" is the refrain, and decades of support for the worst kind of dictators, puppets, bombing campaigns, police states, etc., is the sudden victim of selective amnesia.

By discussing intelligent alternatives to our current method of engagement, we can show people how our current methods are flawed, and make the most effective changes to our current policy given whatever leverage we have.

Washington cannot ignore the Middle East due to its flawed foreign policy. It seems to me that the Bush administraion has been pursued a policy of double containment which consists of stopping both Iran and the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. This is an almost impossibble goal and it has let the Americans ignoring the Iranians when it comes to their growing power in Iraq and the growing Islamic parties of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The only thing that the Americans have to do is to establish some sort of dailoge with both the Iranians and the Sunni Islamic parties and the situation in the Middle East can be somewhat stable. As long the United States continues on its present course there is likely to be disaster in the Middle East.

The United States cannot ignore the Middle East due to its flawed foreign policy. The United States has followed a bad policy of double containment. The United States has tried to contain both the growing Iranian influence in Iraq, and the rising Islamis parties in the Middle East such as Hamas and the Musliam Brotherhood. as long as the United States continees on its present course there is bound to be trouble in the Middle East.

The Middle East has always and will continue to be a major point of interest and conflict for the United States until we learn to wean ourselves off the oil we are so ravenously consuming. This is not to say that oil is the only problem, but we have to admit that it is at the very minimum a reason for the United States to keep a well-trained eye on that situation. I don't believe that the United States can ever truly leave the Middle East alone again, we've dug ourselves a hole in an area where we had really no right to intervene. When we declared the "war on terrorism", what were we really trying to accomplish? The idealistic world where men and women can live without fear of someone's violence lurking in the shadows and corners of their lives? The real problem we have to deal with is, how do we define terrorism? Unlike the other wars, there is no stereotypical form, no physical separation of "good" vs. "evil", the bad guys aren't going to have red eyes and an evil cackle. This situation is drawing remarkable close to the red scare of the 50's, paranoia and fear leading us to illogical conclusions and ending up with innocent people, such as pilots and children, on a watch list because they share a name with a "wanted terrorist". Instead of trying to eliminate the terrorists, we should have declared a war on the problems that cause them! To get back on topic, the Middle East matters a lot, our history with the region is too tangled up in knots, we can choose to painfully de-tangle it, or cut our losses and cut the knot off and hope that new healthy and strong relationships replace it over time.

I wonder if Shadi really wants us to wean ourselves odd Middle Eastern oil.

This is a regular company. They supply cheapest mabinogi gold
I often visit the site. I bought mabinogi money.
buy mabinogi gold is my favorite thing.
mabinogi online gold I am happy to buy their gold.

This is a regular company. They supply cheapest mabinogi gold
I often visit the site. I bought mabinogi money.
buy mabinogi gold is my favorite thing.
mabinogi online gold I am happy to buy their gold.

When you have requiem gold, you will become strong. With requiem lant, you can upgrade and admire by others. You can use requiem money to start the journey of the world. So, do not hesitate, let us move to buy cheap requiem lant

When you have aoc gold, you will become strong. With conan gold, you can upgrade and admire by others. You can use age of conan gold to start the journey of the world. So, do not hesitate, let us move to buy cheap aoc gold

I am so glad to receive some wow gold and the World of Warcraft Gold is the gift as my birthday. Some of the warcraft gold is very attractive for me that I will buy wow gold to enter into the game because the gold is the key to the net game.

According to the agreement of the game, I should get the Scions Of Fate gold to go into the world of the game and SOF gold is sold by some companies. The Scions Of Fate money is not free and it will take some money to own the cheap SOF gold.

I hope i can get Tales Of Pirates gold in low price,
Yesterday i buy Tales Of Pirates Gold for my friend.

Playing online games can make much Perfect World money. And you will be happy at the sametime. And you can use the cheap Perfect World Gold do what you want to do in the online game.

Do you know that the rappelz rupees? The players often forget to eat meal when they play the online games. In the game many palyers need the rappelz gold to up their levels.

Do you know that the rappelz rupees? The players often forget to eat meal when they play the online games. In the game many palyers need the rappelz gold to up their levels.

Do you know that the rappelz rupees? The players often forget to eat meal when they play the online games. In the game many palyers need the rappelz gold to up their levels.

This is very beauty article, I like it, thank you!
To the word you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

The Nike air max Shoe lives up to its name with plush cushioning and a sleek silhouette. It brings you just what you need to style it up wherever you go. you can look at the Air max 2009,air max 90,Air max 95,Air Max 2010
* Minimalistic construction of leathers and synthetics in the upper
* Nike Shox technology for optimal cushioning
* Rubber outsole for excellent grip

The FRANCK MULLER Watch Santa FRANCK MULLER Watch Monica-based

This is a very good site..

sonra bedava chat
burasıda var bedava sohbet

Good recommended website.

Mysterious black bezel and case, case materials for cement and steel production hasLouis Vuitton been the industry standard TEXIN belt do? 985U black rubber information, and the price and spraying mosaics, showing a high hardnessLouis Vuitton steel lesson material, with a special texture satin. Rubber surface show the appearance of fine lines beautifully, from the electro-corrosion to form the inner mold carved.

e biodegradablechanel bags when you "stoop and scoop."
Dispose of animal waste according to the campground rules or bury it off-road.
Observe fire coguccinditions and always keep a full jug of water nearby.
Remove flammable brush near fire pits and keep campfires small.
Don't burn plastics and metalshermes.
Use non-toxic, phosphate-free, biodegradable cleaning supplies and sanitary additives.
Reduce the need louis vuitton for air-conditioning by parking in natural shade, opening windows, using awnings or portable sun shelters.
Wash air-conditionidesignerng filters when dirty, instead of buying new ones each time.
Reduce the need to turn on heat designer handbagsby parking in a sheltered spot, out of the north and west winds.

If you like analog-digital Chanel Replica Watches, today's review might just make your day. This is the limited-edition A Lange & Sohne Replica, model #9052. Limited to 999 pieces, this seems to be their version of the Omega X-33. Let's start out with the specifications:44mm across, 50mm at the widest point, 15mm thick.PVD-finished stainless steel case and bracelet.Bracelet is three-link, solid, with solid end links, fliplock, and 23mm lugs.Domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating.Inner dive bezel, operated by a screw-down crown at ten o'clock.Tritium tubes on hours, bezel, and hands.Reverse LCD display.In an interesting twist: it also has an electronic compass.Like the X-33, the caseback is a soundboard to increase the volume of the alarm.Also like the X-33, the crown is actually a push button; rotating it has no effect.45 month battery.ISA quartz movement.Water resistant to 100m (330ft).Three time zones, countdown timer, alarm, Bvlgari Replica Watches, and my favorite: seconds-only mode.Please read on for the full review.As you can see from the profile, the Blackbird has quite a different appearance than the Luminox Blackout. It's tapered, subtle and considerably more understated. Take a close look at the bezel: it has a tapered profile that I quite like. The Audemars Piguet Replica finish is flat (non-glossy) which combines with the reverse LCD on the dial for a very stealthy look. You can also see in this picture how the lugs curve down around your wrist for a good fit. I did notice that when on bad pavement on a bicycle, the lugs dug in a bit due to the weight of the Rado Replica Watches (175g), so I wouldn't recommend this as an exercise Tissot Replica Watches.The Blackbird has some fascinating design decisions that I don't pretend to understand. For example, the inner bezel is set via the screw-down crown at ten o'clock; well and good. However, on your left wrist, it's quite tricky to operate, requiring removal. It's nice, but you probably won't use it much given that the Tag Heuer Replica Watches has a digital Swiss Rolex ETA Replica and countdown timer, anyway. The bezel does have a tritium marker, though,Baume & Mercier Replica more useful at night.Another oddity is the primary crown: as noted above, it's actually a button only, and unlike the bezel crown, it's not screwdown. I would have expected either a conventional button or a threaded crown. And lastly, there's no analog seconds hand. Seconds are displayed by a dedicated ring of segments on the outer edge of the display. It works, but I do miss the analog hand.Here you can see the sounding board caseback design, very similar to the X-33.

Money is indeed
Tiffany Bangles important, but Tiffany tassel comb money cannot buy everything. A miser may Tiffany Collection Money Clip think that “money talks,” but if you only give your attention to making money, you may lose many things, such Tiffany Pendants as health, friendship and love. I don't think we should regard money as everything. Money Tiffany Key Rings is just a tool that can help us solve problems or enable us to live a comfortable life. What Tiffany Cuff Link we should do is to use it appropriately and not become misers. This way, all of us can lead a happier lives.

Great site. This could probably have the refactoring tag added t it.

Specialize in manufacture explosion proof light, including: explosion proof floodlight, led flashlight, spot lamp, led mining light, led searching light with rechargeable battery in China.

What about "Somebody"


Well, ok.

sweet jesus that icon what in the hell lol

What is your icon about bb?

I visited this page first time and found it Very Good Job of acknowledgment and a marvelous source of info.........Thanks Admin!

It is time to buy a homecoming dress for youself.Do you want to be the homecoming queen?If your answer is 'YES'.You'd better search for your homecoming dress as soon as possible.Bright colors are so in this year.Remember, this isn't a prom or graduation ceremony. Homecoming is about fun! Dresses can still look formal, but this year you should be jazzing up your look with bright or even neon colors. Hot pink, electric blue; show your wild side and don't forget to color-match your makeup and accessories.Short skirts are a must. . If you're going to be dancing away the night then you don't want a long skirt tripping you up at every turn! Homecoming is a great chance to be a bit less formal, so ditch the long gown and go short!A-Line or ball gown style is ideal. Every year girls are wondering what the best style is for some serious partying at homecoming! Well in 2011 we're saying that you need to choose A-Line or ball gown style gowns as these are going to be really comfortable for dancing as well as being flattering for almost ANY body shape!Choose iridescent taffeta. 2011 is the year of iridescent taffeta. Here comes the best part though, following 2011's trends and still getting the dresses cheaply!

And now let me tell you where can buy these dressses:

Dress store/This is one site which belong to our company..we are provide a lot of new style homecoming dresses. And we will update the products every month.

Gsdresses/It is belong to our company,too.we will update the products every month and send you conpon non-periodical.

Mldress/We not only provide customize homcoming dresses but also send the new product list to you. If you are lucky,you may get the conpon non-periodical.

Don't be shillyshally,To get your new homecoming dresses as soon as possible.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use