My good friend Jim Fallows, national correspondent for the The Atlantic, asked me to be part of a team to publish guest blogs while he is using the ‘down time’ to finish a book. I am assigned, with three other people, for this week. Attached is my first entry, which I am also distributing as a blaster.
During his brilliantly run campaign of 2008, Barack Obama electrified the world with vague promises of change in foreign policy as well as domestic policy. (My take on his campaign strategy can be found here.) Two and a half years later, those promises are ashes. Nowhere is that clearer in foreign policy than in the Arab world.
In contrast to the euphoria surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Arab Revolt of 2011 leaves one with a disquieting sense that we may be standing on the wrong side of history. People power and the promise of democracy worked spectacularly well for the United States when the tyrants in Eastern Europe collapsed twenty years ago, but I think it may be working against us in the Arab world of 2011.
Phi Beta Iota: Brother Chuck is at least half right. The Davies J-Curve shows how people revolt not when they are oppressed, but when they have enjoyed or tangibly seen within reach the state of non-oppression. What we have here is a convergence. Yes, the US is on the wrong side of history–it gave up its strategic integrity immediately after WWII when it joined the UK in reneging on all promises to the Arabs and then supporting a series of brutal dictators. Yes, Obama’s broken promises had an effect, but not the effect Brother Chuck suggests: instead of raising hopes, Obama’s promises, quickly broken, sidelined the US. It took the US off the table. All that was left was the example of the former Soviet Union states, what Vaclav Havel calls “the power of the powerless.” That memory lay dormant while the Internet and cellular telephones and social networks (including especially Facebook) created a new sense of social power independent of the state. The PRECIPITANT for Egypt was the fall of the despotic Tunisian government in less than a week IN COMBINATION WITH the visible collapse of the US and global economies and the food scarcities visible across the region. Paradigms of failure have been with us for some time, but the word ENOUGH!, first articulated in Egypt, will now be heard–and acted upon–around the world. Saudi Arabia is ripe. That’s a good thing.