In this time of fiscal austerity, the American public is looking to its government for smart investments and wise use of a limited treasury. With this as a backdrop, it is ironic that conservatives in the House of Representatives are taking an axe to the international affairs budget. Security experts, military leaders, business executives and bipartisan leaders agree that an investment in diplomacy and development is not only an essential part of maintaining our national security and economic security, it also has an extremely high rate of return. John Kerry’s Senate plan to match President Obama’s request for 21st century investments in global power and economic reach are more important than ever.
Trials are starting in Egypt for its deposed leader; Tunisia faces the economic consequences of a transition from a dictatorship; the international community recognizes the opposition in Libya; Syria faces concerns over civil strife; and conditions for the Yemeni people worsen as President Saleh clings to power. These are just some of the complexities facing the region, emphasizing the need for a careful, nimble and calculated approach toward the region from American policy makers and the international community.
The uprisings in the Middle East, now in their seventh month, continue to produce major news: U.S. recognition of the Libyan opposition; Egyptian steps toward elections and civilian-military disagreements; heightened violence in Syria; and a wobbly opposition coalition facing an absent leader in Yemen who refuses to depart.
Bruce Jentleson, writing in the Washington Quarterly, sums up the need for clear-eyed analysis as the ever-more complex “Arab Spring” confronts a hot summer: “Blithe generalizations, binary thinking, and fear-mongering distort both the political dialogue and the analytic capacity needed to pursue policies differentiated according to the particular political dynamics of the various countries of the Arab world and the strategic challenges facing the United States.”
As the “Arab Spring” turns into the “Arab Summer,” recent developments range from debate in the United States Congress about America’s role in Libya, to clashes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to constitutional reforms in Morocco. Carnegie Endowment scholar and former Jordanian diplomat Marwan Muasher captures the reality when he writes, “The Arab Awakening is going to be measured in decades, not months or years.”