Archive for the ‘The Middle East’ Category

What He Said II

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Saw this the day after I wrote the last post. Once again Jon Stewart says it better than I can. Starts a little slow. Excoriation begins at 2:19.

4 People Died

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Well, after 3 months off, I had hoped to start with something more positive, but inspiration often comes from outrage, so I want to rant a little about what Joe Klein dubbed the Benghazi Circus back in November, and which any close viewer of politics can tell you is apparently still parked in Washington DC.

Last week, Senate Republicans bestowed on themselves the dubious distinction of being the first Congress ever to filibuster a Secretary of Defense nominee. The reasons for this vary (the main reason was to see if they could dig up a little more dirt on Chuck Hagel), but one cited by both Senators McCain and Graham is that they wanted the White House to release more information on the Benghazi attacks. This latest stunt is just one in a series dating back to the campaign, with the most prominent being Senator Ron Johnson’s ill advised attack on Hillary Clinton and the gentle smackdown provided by John Kerry the following day.

In order to understand the reasons that Republicans have wasted so much energy on the Benghazi attacks, you don’t have to look far. As Kevin Drum pointed out months ago, it’s the same thing that makes Republicans think that it would be good politics to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress over the “Fast and Furious” scandal that no one who doesn’t watch Fox had ever heard of, or that our electoral system has been severely compromised by Acorn and the six guys in the New Black Panther Party: Fox News. Even after the rest of the country had moved on, many Republicans continued to “very closely” monitor the story of “who knew what, when” after the Benghazi attacks. Why? Because it was on their TV every night.

Just to be clear, I’m not someone who thinks that there was no issue here. Clearly the White House soft pedaled the attack carried out on the anniversary of 9-11. While Susan Rice’s mentions of the “spontaneous response” to an anti-muslim video can be explained with reference to the talking points she was given by the intelligence agencies and the evolving reports from Benghazi,  President Obama’s repetitions of this incorrect narrative are harder to justify. In addition, there are lessons to be learned about how we protect our embassies in distant lands, many of which were detailed in the a State Department commissioned  report on the incident.

But let’s put this incident in historical perspective. President Obama shades the truth about four dead Americans and it’s a national tragedy that deserves months of media coverage, multiple hearings and the filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee who wasn’t even in the Obama Administration at the time. On the other hand, President Bush and his cronies lie our country into a war which results in the death of over a 100,000 people, including the death of 4,000 Americans and the maiming of tens of thousands of others, and there is nary a peep from those same Republicans. Where is the sense of proportion here?

Rand Paul, during the final Senate testimony of Hillary Clinton, said that if he were president he would have fired Secretary Clinton, and that the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi was the “worst tragedy since 9/11.”

First of all, Senator Paul, you’re not president, nor will you ever be president. And second of all, “the worst tragedy since 9/11″?! Were you sleeping through the entire eight years from 2000 to 2008? Again, 4 People Died. That’s a tragedy, and we mourn all Americans who die in service to this country, but were talking about 4 people, not the tens of thousands wounded in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of almost 2,000 Americans during Hurricane Katrina, or the many others who have died in mass shootings that could have been mitigated (if not stopped) if the GOP wasn’t completely in hock to the NRA.

Proportion, Republicans…

Proportion.

Republican Schizophrenia on Middle East Policy

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Here’s a Jon Stewart riff from a couple of weeks ago on the hypocrisy of Republicans using the death of the Ambassador in Libya as a reason to attack Obama’s foreign policy.

Republican critiques of Middle East policy are actually more complex than just the usual Republican hypocrisy in that they get to the heart of a real rift in the Republican party on Middle East Policy. On the one hand, you have what we might want call the “The Arabs Only Understand Force” Republicans–the people who believe that the solution to almost every problem is military force and the threat of military force. These people want to play a version of Cold War era global chess with the Middle East, supporting our dictator friends and deposing the others. They don’t give a shit about democratization and many of them believe that the Arabs can’t handle the freedom. On the other hand, we have the neo-cons, who think that the key to our security in the Abab world lies in allowing these countries to democratize. The theory here is that democracy and freedom lead to economic growth, and economic growth leads to stability, and stability leads to less terrorism which leads to our security. Whether that is actually true is the central question of the Middle East for the next few decades and a topic for another day.

The problem with Republicans under Obama is that they are so mixed up that they constantly shift from one pole to another. This is what allows Republicans who scoffed at Democratic arguments that we should get rid of George W. Bush when he invaded the wrong country, Al Qaeda rushed in and fanned the flames of a sectarian war and 100,000 people died, but have the temerity to say that Obama’s Middle East policy is a failure because of an attack on our embassy and protests across the Middle East. A few weeks ago, my conservative uncle, who was an ardent Bush supporter eight years ago, actually tried to make the argument that Obama should be voted out because “the Middle East is in flames” and people are protesting against our embassies after Obama said that everyting would be better after he was elected. I pointed out that he is suffering from the same short term memory that so many of his fellow Republicans seem to be experiencing these days.

Another example of Republican schizophrenia on Middle East Policy can be seen in contradictory Republican messages messages on Libya and Syria. In Libya, we had a very constrained but effective tactical role in overthrowing a historic enemy of the United States which was accomplished with no American casualties. We now have an emerging, albeit fragile democracy in the country, but also the presence of some militant groups that have yet to be dealt with and unarmed, one of which attacked our embassy a few weeks ago. So you hear from the “Arabs Only Understand Force” Republicans like Ben Stein, who wrote that

It’s amazing that Qaddafi kept saying that the people fighting against him were al Qaeda and we kept helping them — and sure enough, they turned out to be al Qaeda. And Qaddafi, who had become our friend — although a cruel and vile man — was killed by the rebels so now Libya is in large measure in the hands of al Qaeda. 

Too many factual innacuracies to go into detail on (the government isn’t Al Qaeda, the rebels are), but this is a main point of the AOUF Republicans: we deposed Qadaffi and empowered Al Qaeda. Well that’s a reasonable enough argument, but it’s slightly less credible coming from the same people whose response was basically “shut the fuck up” when the exact same argument was made about the War in Iraq (the main difference being tens of thousands of American soldiers wounded, thousands of US soldiers killed, our eye off the Osama bin Laden ball and over a trillion dollars added to the federal debt). 

Similarly, AOUF Republicans blame the Obama administration for the emergence of the Egyptian Brotherhood, but it’s not clear what the alternative was for them. Encourage the government to fire on the protestors? Take sides with our traditional ally when the writing was on the wall that he would ultimately be deposed by his own people?

On Syria, the Republicans have the luxury of an almost diametrically opposed argument to wield against Obama: he isn’t doing enough to help overthrow the Assad regime, even though it’s not clear who would take Assad’s place and there is ample documentation that Al Qaeda are among the groups backing the Sunni insurgency in a conflict that breaks down largely on sectarian lines.

Look, these are tough calls, but that’s partly the point. It’s tough to sit back and watch a government slaughter it’s people, but it’s also probably not wise to help overthrow one government when you don’t know what kind of government is most likely to replace it. Fortunately for the Republicans, they can complain no matter what happens: if we continue to support the Syrians revels with only words, then we’re not doing enough and Obama is showing American weakness. If we enable them to take power and the government that everges is even slightly more Islamic than it is today, then Obama’s foreign policy is a failure because he allowed “radical muslim extremists” to take power.

In the meantime, there’s nothing you can do about it but laugh. 

Credit Where Credit Is Due Part II

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011


Iraq: Over $1 trillion
Over 4,500 US casualties
Libya: Less than $2 billion
Zero US casualties

Here’s Lawrence O’Donnell with the news and the lengths Republicans have gone to deny the president credit for the foreign policy victory. Jon Stewart actually has an even better take on the Republican reaction, but I’m trying not to make every post just another Daily Show clip.

Dexter Filkins: On the Ground in Yemen

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Tawakkol Karman, who led the protests in Sanaa, is one of the few grass-roots women leaders in the Middle East.
Here’s a Dexter Filkins article on Yemen and his Fresh Air interview on the same topic.

This is a little out of date, but it’s been on my To Do List and since we may be having a “regime change” there, I thought I’d post it.

This article has a number of themes that struck me. The first is how much of a tribal society many of these Middle Eastern states are, which I talked about in my last post.

The other theme is how easily democratic movements can be hijacked by extremist forces.

In his article, Filkins profiles Tawakul Karman, a mother of three who has helped lead the democratic protest movement in Yemen. On his recent trip to Yemen, Filkins visited Karman’s house in Sana, and noted that she had four photos on her mantle: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Hillary Clinton.

One of the stories Filkins tells is how, attending one of the protests that occur regularly on the Karman’s Sanaa University campus, he saw a prominent Yemeni Islamist, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, take the stage. Zindani praised the democratic youth movement’s struggles, but then proceeded to say where he thought would all lead. “The caliphate is coming! The caliphate is coming!” he  cried.

Karman was furious, saying that the protest leaders had a big argument about inviting Zindani, since “this is a youth movement, not a religious one,” but this observation leads him to a problem at the heart of the Arab Spring: 

Tvhe demonstrators who had gathered outside Sanaa University faced a dilemma: on their own, they did not represent the aspirations of Yemen’s twenty-three million people, but, the more the movement grew, the more Islamist it threatened to become. Seventy per cent of Yemenis live in rural areas, and most are deeply religious.

Glenn Beck’s paranoid rantings about Labor movements colluding with Islamist movements aside, the real issue here is how easily these democratic movements can be taken over by extremist elements as they expand from the universities and cities to the countryside. This is going to be an issue throughout the Middle East.

In a recent article in Salon.com, Fred Kaplan cites a study by political scientists, Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder which lays out the conditions for smooth and successful democratization:

These conditions include a literate population, a fairly prosperous and diverse economy, potentially democratic institutions (a functioning judiciary, free press, honest police, etc.), and a state apparatus capable of mediating and administering disputes among competing social and political groups.

This is not good news for Arab democracies in general and it’s even worse news for Yemen, a tribal society that has none of the above. When the Arab Spring protests started I thought that an Egypt-like uprising in Yemen could be the most dangerous for US interests. Not only is Yemen in a strategically critical location, it is also the headquarters of what is considered by many in the intelligence community to be the most dangerous branch of Al Qaeda: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

As much as I want to support the democratic aspirations of people like Tawakul Karman, we need to tread lightly here. The end result of this movement might not only be bad for the United States: it might also be bad for the democratic activists themselves.

Two Tribes Go To War

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Reading about Yemen this week, I was reminded of Thomas Friedman’s article a few months ago in which he drew a distinction between

two kinds of states in the Middle East: “real countries” with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called “tribes with flags,” or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens.

Among the secong group, Friedman includes Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

This seems particularly true for Yemen. Despite the fact that there has been a real democratic movement in Yemen, the deciding factor in the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh may be a squabble with another powerful family that has strong tribal overtones.

Veteran Middle East reporter Dexter Filkins, in an recent interview with Terry Gross talked about the tribal balancing act that has kept President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power for 33 years:

to President Saleh, the Americans, al-Qaeda, you know, we’re just a couple more tribes he has to deal with… This is a tribal society and he’s constantly balancing one tribe against the other…al-Qaeda’s a tribe and like the Americans are a tribe. So he’s just playing everybody off against everybody else but the ultimate aim, of course, is keeping himself in power.

More on this idea later. In the meantime, it looks increasingly line Saleh’s balancing act may have run its course.

Bin Laden’s Decade Ends With A Whimper

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Like a lot of Americans, I had a little more spring in my step on Monday with last Sunday’s news that justice was finally served to Osama bin Laden at the hands of an elite SEAL team.

It seemed surreal, but it was some of the best news that this country has heard in a long time.

Ten years can go by quickly in this life and September 11, 2001 sometimes seems not so long ago. But watching the college kids celebrate in front of the White House I was reminded that they were 8, 9, 10 years old when the Towers went down and that they had lived most of their conscious life in the post 9-11 world.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but 9-11 shaped most of America’s history for the past decade. Two months after 9-11, we launched the War in Afghanistan and it now ranks as our nation’s longest war. Even the best case scenarios envision us fighting there for years and maintaining a presence for even longer.

Mere months after the War in Afghanistan began, Bush Administration officials had pivoted and were already using 9-11 as justification for an invasion of Iraq. Just over a year after the Afghan war began,  in a vote held just before the mid-term elections, the US Congress voted to give the president the authority to invade Iraq. In March 2003 we invaded Iraq and the rest (as they say) is history.

Both wars looked like easy victories for the country, but as the insurgencies in each country dragged on, the wars bogged us down, sapped our collective energy and drained the Treasury of over a trillion dollars. Meanwhile, the specter of bin Laden hung above our heads, taunting us via video from some shadowy undisclosed location. Despite our 12 aircraft carriers stationed around the globe, we still couldn’t find the man who knocked down the towers with 11 men armed with box-cutters.

Last Sunday’s raid put all of that to an end.  To be sure, we still need to maintain our vigilance as a country and there will almost certainly be more attacks in the future. Bin Laden may be dead, but Bin Ladenism survives, as do the splinter groups of Al Qaeda. But it seems like a large weight has been lifted. The circle has been closed and justice has been served.  

The day after the raid that killed bin Laden, I watched Richard Engel being interviewed from Benghazi and he commented on the coverage he had been watching on Arab satellite TV. He said that, while the headline news story on Arab TV was the death of bin Laden, as the day wore on, the stations began to talk more about the “new core issues” of the revolution in Egypt, the revolution in Tunisia, the uprising in Syria and the war in Libya

There was almost a sense that bin Laden was a man of the past decade, and a lot of people in the Middle East want to put him behind them…. people wanted to focus on what really will matter for the future of the region going forward for the next ten years, and that is these uprisings.

Bin Laden dreamed of establishing a caliphate governed by Islamic law that would stretch from Spain to Afghanistan. But if the events of the past few months are any indication, the muslim world will be looking more to the freedom and liberty that those of us in the West cherish than to the fanaticism and strict religious rule of Sharia law that Osama bin Laden offered.

The sense that bin Laden was a figure of the past decade was mirrored here in the United States. I remember where I was when I watched George W. Bush’s “bullhorn moment” at Ground Zero and I remember thinking that I was watching something critical in American history. When Bush responded to a firefighter who had yelled that he couldn’t hear him, Bush yelled back into the bullhorn:

I can hear you. The people of the world hear you…And the people who knocked down these buildings are going to hear all of us soon.

It was raw. It was tribal. It was cathartic. It was one of the most iconic moments of George W. Bush’s presidency. 

Similarly, Rudy Giuliani also inspired America with his resolution, moral certainty and competence in the face of crisis.

Years later, the image of Bush at Ground Zero was replaced in the American psyche with one of him landing on an aircraft carrier in a ridiculous flight suit and making his “Mission Accomplished” speech. His leadership after 9-11 was tainted by using it as a pretext to invade Iraq. Similarly, the memories of Giuliani’s bold leadership were replaced with the equally strong sense of political opportunism that Joe Biden famously characterized as “a noun, a verb and 9-11.”

As I watched President Obama escorted by Mayor Giuliani to a firehouse in New York, I was struck by the sense in which bin Laden, Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush were, in many ways, men who defined the past decade.

The ethereal terrorist in fatigues and turban who haunted our national conversation for the past ten years is gone. Our last image of him is not as a menacing terrorist, but a hunched over old man watching videotapes of himself on a tiny TV.

An era is ended and a new era begins.

Where Are The Patriots Now?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011


I love this.

Republicans never met a war they didn’t like before Obama was president, and they sure as hell didn’t ask what the endgame or the exit strategy was the last two times we went to war. Six years into the Iraq war it was unpatriotic to suggest that we might want to get out. Now we’ve been in Libya for three weeks and the Republicans are already demanding the exit strategy.

Reminds me of after Obama was elected president: I told my conservative uncle that I had created a Word document that just read “why do you hate America so much?,” and that everytime he criticised the new president, I was going to open it up and cut and paste it to him.

He bristled and I reassured him that I would never hold him to the ridiculous standard that opposing the president’s policies was unpatriotic, but that every once in a while, I would remind him that Republicans did try to hold Democrats to that standard for 8 years.

The Hillary-Gates Axis in Action

Friday, April 1st, 2011


I thought that this interaction between Bob Gates and Hillary on Meet the Press this week was particularly interesting. Gates has been a reluctant warrior on Libya and he gave an honest answer to David Gregory on whether he thought that what happened in Libya was in our vital interest. Gates said that he didn’t believe that it was, but that it was in our allies interest.

David Gregory highlighted that comment, and Hillary, understanding that this was going to be the headline of the interview interjected:

Well, but, but, but then it wouldn’t be fair as to what Bob just said.  I mean, did Libya attack us?  No.  They did not attack us.  Do they have a very critical role in this region and do they neighbor two countries–you just mentioned one, Egypt, the other Tunisia–that are going through these extraordinary transformations and cannot afford to be destabilized by conflict on their borders?  Yes.  Do they have a major influence on what goes on in Europe because of everything from oil to immigration?

And, you know, David, that raises a, a very important point.  Because you showed on the map just a minute ago Afghanistan.  You know, we asked our allies, our NATO allies, to go into Afghanistan with us 10 years ago.  They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact they were not attacked.  The attack came on us as we all tragically remember.  They stuck with us.

When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the UK, France, Italy, other of our NATO allies.  This was in their vital national interest.  The UK and France were the ones who went to the Security Council and said, “We have to act because otherwise we’re seeing a really violent upheaval with a man who has a history of unpredictable violent acts right on our doorstep.” So, you know, let, let’s be fair here.  They didn’t attack us, but what they were doing and Gadhafi’s history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests, as Bob said, and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.

Bob Gates and Hillary’s alliance has been well documented and watching the video made me think that this policy is was no doubt significantly effected by the push and pull of these two key advisers. In fact, it might not be a stretch to say that the policy is a mix of Gates’  (George HW Bush style) political realism and focus on coalition building and the Hillary/Samantha Power/Susan Rice cohort (shaped by the Clinton Administration’s failure to intervene in Rwanda, and later, by its successful intervention in Bosnia).

The Obama Administration has tried to emulate George HW Bush’s political realism and focus on coalition building throughout their Administration, but as the New York Times reported, Clinton and Gates found themselves on opposite sides of this issue during internal deliberations. Hillary’s side won the day, but (perhaps in a nod to Gates and other advisors’ reticence),

The president had a caveat…The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited — no ground troops — and finite. “Days, not weeks,” a senior White House official recalled him saying.

Tom Ricks seemed to take those reports at face value. Later on Meet the Press, Bob Woodward mentioned that there was a possibility that military advisers at some future juncture might argue for a much larger land war. Ricks said

I was really struck by what you had with the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State and their comments again and again saying limited war, limited interest.  There is a leash on here on the U.S. military that if they get any general getting a whiff of mission creep, they’re going to yank on that leash so hard his head’s going to come snapping all the way back to Washington.

At least at this point, it looks like Ricks was right. On Capitol Hill today, Gates basically said that he would rather resign than put US military boots on the ground in Libya and that we shouldn’t be involved in training the rebel military, arguing that there are many other countries that could do that.

Taking a Position On the Libya Engagement

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I’ve been riveted to the events in Libya, and while I’m not convinced of Andrew Sullivan’s view that bloggers have to take a position, I certainly feel some self imposed obligation to do so.

So, while I admit that this is a tough call for me and I’m not at all sure that my position will be vindicated, I’m inclined to support the president’s actions so far.

That being said, this is a tough call in general and deserves a full analysis:

On the con side, there is the obvious: this would be the third war in the Muslim world that we are engaged in; there’s not a clear, immediate, vital national interest in Libya; we know very little about the rebel forces, and there’s a good argument to be made that, in a time of fiscal crisis, we probably shouldn’t be spending money on more foreign entanglements. But there is such a thing as moral credibility and and it makes sense for us to not let Qaddafi set the precedent that overwhelming force is the best way to put down the “Arab spring” movements. Given that we were slow to respond in Egypt and we’re giving the Saudi and Bahraini monarchies a pass for geopolitical reasons, we would certainly have lost all credibility with the nascent democracy movements in the region (not to mention the rest of the world) if we were to stand by while Qaddafi’s troops overwhelmed Benghazi and meted out a very public revenge on the rebels.

The French and the British were clearly out front on this intervention, and given that, I think the Obama’s Administration’s approach was pretty solid. They made it clear that (a) they wouldn’t act without a request from either the Arab League or the African Union (b) they wanted to get UN approval for their action (c) Arab or African forces would have to be involved the operations, and (d) the U.S. would not take the lead throughout the campaign. The last condition was particularly interesting, given that we have almost always have taken the lead in Western interventions for the past 60 years. In effect, Obama said to the French and British: if you want to do this, we will take the lead in the first few weeks, but then you guys are taking over.

When I initially heard all of these conditions, I thought that they were just roadblocks that the Administration put up in order to kill the idea of intervention. But surprisingly, all of these conditions were met. In an unprecedented step, the Arab League requested Western intervention in the Middle East; China and Russia agreed not to veto a relatively broad resolution authorizing the use of force “to protect civilians”; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates agreed to contribute a token number of fighters to enforce the no-fly zone, and the French and British agreed to take the lead on enforcement after an initial bombardment by US forces.

As President Obama said in his weekly address today:

The progress we’ve made over the past seven days demonstrates how the international community should work, with many nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding international law.

As usual, US led military forces performed brilliantly and the initial operations have worked to level the playing field between the rebels and Qaddafi’s forces, even allowing the rebels to roll back some of Qaddafi’s gains in the past two days.  

Now with the initial air strikes out of the way, the coalition faces the tougher issues, many of which are rooted in the compromises that had to be made in order to get the international community to buy in. For instance, while everyone knows that the real objective is to force Qaddafi from power, the UN resolution only calls for the “protection of civilians.” While the air strikes have stopped Qaddafi’s military from advancing on the rebels, almost everyone agrees that this mostly untrained band of rebels will need outside help to take Tripoli, and while the UN has imposed an arms embargo on Libya, it’s clear that the rebels will need additional armaments and training in order to prevail against Qaddafi. In addition, the French have said that ”The destruction of Qaddafi’s military capacity is a matter of days or weeks, certainly not months”–but without a capitulation by Qaddafi or mass defection of his forces (not out of the question, but dangerous to base a war plan on)–they’re fooling themselves if they think that the rebels can capture Tripoli in a number of weeks.

Ideally, we should rely on our allies to arm and equip the rebels. While there was some initial debate about whether this would violate the UN arms embargo on Libya, there have been recent reports that coalition members are actively pursuing this option.  The French have some experience operating in Qaddafi’s Libya and the Egyptians are already reported to be supplying the rebels with small arms. At the same time, coalition air power can provide a safe haven in rebel controlled territory for the training of troops (either by allied special forces, or by mercenaries) so that the rebels will eventually be able to march to Tripoli and take on Qaddafi’s forces. Clearly this violates the spirit of the UN resolution, but it is hard to believe that anyone thought that the endgame the coalition would be pursuing in Libya would be anything but regime change.

To be clear, this course is fraught with peril and plenty of things could go wrong along the way: evening the playing field could lead to a prolonged standoff between Qaddafi and rebels. A rebel victory could produce a weak central government, setting off a civil war. In the event of either outcome, Libya could become a breeding ground for terrorism. Alternately, a rebel government itself could easily be hijacked by Islamist forces (which are already a part of the governing council and the military). Our allies could tire of the mission, leaving the United States holding the bag, or an excessive focus on Libya could lead us to lose focus(ala Bush in 2003) on the more pressing issues throughout the Middle East (from Egypt to Yemen).

But failure to support the rebels also has its downsides. If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that the the future of the Middle East (for better or worse) will be shaped by democracy. It may take decades to unfold, or it may happen over the next few years, but if we don’t support it where we can, we significantly increase the chances that whatever type of democracy emerges will view the United States not as the beacon of freedom that we see ourselves for, but as the imperialist power that chose political stability over democratic values when the fate of their countries hung in the balance.