Middle East

Look Who’s Talking

The current wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East is a welcome development. But it will almost certainly empower long-suppressed political parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. That movement—whose slogan reads, in part, “Koran is our law; Jihad is our way”—presents several urgent challenges for American policymakers: How can political parties that seek Islamic law through holy struggle be cajoled and pressured to respect the rules of democratic politics? Is political Islam even compatible with open, civil societies?

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This is the first in our package of articles about the Middle East revolts and the future of autocracy worldwide. Click here to read about the Muslim Brotherhood, here to read about Russia's deep despair, and here to read about Venezuela's lost generation. No one thinks about their own demise more than the leaders of China’s Communist Party. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, they have undertaken a massive effort to study why some one-party states survive while others fail.

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Man on Book

“I want to contribute to the world of ideas.” That was how Rick Santorum envisioned his political future back in 2007, two months after losing his Pennsylvania Senate seat by 18 points. The sentiment may have sounded strange coming from a Republican best known for his in-your-face social conservatism—the guy who chalked up the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal to Boston’s “cultural liberalism” and suggested that gay marriage could usher in “man-on-dog” relationships.

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Rumor Debunked

Herzliya, Israel—For years, American neoconservatives have been accused of being lackeys for Israel, namely the Likud party. In 2008, Time’s Joe Klein wrote, “The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary—plumped for [the Iraq] war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S.

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Green Day

When protests erupted on the Iranian streets in 2009, President Obama adopted a deliberately cautious tone.

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Green Day

When protests erupted on the Iranian streets in 2009, President Obama adopted a deliberately cautious tone. Mindful of the fact that he was simultaneously trying to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear program—and afraid that his open support would make an indigenous revolt seem like a tool of foreign influence—the president condemned the use of violence against the Green Movement, but stopped short of backing their heartfelt calls for freedom and democracy.

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The revolution will always be harmonized. If no song in itself can change the world, revolutionary change usually happens to music, as it is today in the Middle East. News feeds from Tahrir Square and now from Tehran have been capturing streets full of young people singing anthems of uprising, just as eighteenth-century revolutionaries sang in Paris and Philadelphia. In Cairo, the song that emerged quickly as the semi-official anthem of the revolution is “Long Live Egypt,” a buoyant, gently hip-hoppish pop tune by the Egyptian group Scarabeuz and Omima.

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[Guest post by Ezra Deutsch-Feldman.] With the sudden success of nonviolent revolution in Egypt, attention has turned to the seemingly ubiquitous influence of Peter Ackerman, a former investment banker who became something of an intellectual godfather to the Middle Eastern protest movements. His group, the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, produced instructional videos for leaders of nonviolent revolutions, held conferences where would-be revolutionaries could meet and swap tactics, and even financed a video game meant to help organizers plan and practice grassroots uprisings.

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Dictators in Turmoil

Dictatorships fear nothing quite like they fear a mob in the streets. In Tunis and Cairo, however, it was not mobs that gathered but crowds. Non-violent crowds, thoughtful crowds. Alas, there were some 300 dead among the protestors. So this was not exactly a costless revolution in terms of human life. Still, the dynamics that unfolded in Tahrir Square were rooted in peaceful communications. In many ways this was a re-enactment of the Committees of Correspondence. These were initiated in 1773 by Dabney Carr, an intimate of Thos.

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The massive protests that forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s departure have been widely described as a revolution. And that’s fine. If there is an Internet revolution, a Reagan revolution, and even an Obama revolution, then there has certainly been an Egyptian revolution. But there is another meaning of revolution that applies specifically to events like the French, Russian, or Chinese Revolutions. In this sense of the word, Egypt has not yet had a revolution; and the success of the protests will depend ultimately on whether it does have one.

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