Friday, March 18, 2011

Toward a New Middle East

Paul Pillar weighs in with some very sage advice for the US as the Arab revolutions of 2011 unfold:
strategically it should consistently respect democratic outcomes. It should not peremptorily determine who is to be its friend or its enemy, and it should not choose friends just on the basis of their ideologies.

In the new Middle East, it will be even more important than before to expend the necessary effort and political capital to resolve the Palestinian issue. Movement toward popular sovereignty in Arab countries, far from being a distraction from this issue, has made even more glaring the lack of Palestinian popular sovereignty. Indefinite perpetuation of the status quo in the occupied territories would mean being on the wrong side of history.

The shape of the new Middle East, and the extent to which it really will be new and different, will depend on events yet to play out. There will be a tendency to overreact to many of those events. Some will be interpreted as either an end to a wave of democratization or as evidence of the wave's unlimited power. Neither such interpretation is likely to be valid. There will be plenty of material in the months ahead for further analysis and strategizing, but enough has happened already to have a sense of history's direction.

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