I recently had the pleasure of leading a Great Decision’s group meeting that covered Augustus Norton’s chapter on the Middle East Realignment, AKA “Arab Spring: Where are We Now”? Our group had an excellent discussion and, as could be expected, jumped around to numerous subtopics within this wide ranging theme. We tried to go through the recent upheavals by country, but they began to blend together or inevitably were compared and contrasted. I also couldn’t help but bring in the big theories of international politics: realpolitik, international liberalism, nationalism, clash of civilizations, ideology, etc.
Based on the views of the discussion’s participants (not mine), here are some beliefs or leanings of Americans regarding what is happening in the Middle East’s current upheaval:
- There is very reserved optimism that these revolts might lead to lasting change for the good. A strong strand of realism was voiced by the group that Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc., had a ways to go before one could claim victory for any of these countries to be called a stable democracy in the near future.
- A strong isolationist streak was prevalent. Though our group’s American citizens wished and hoped for the best for those in the Middle East and North Africa — namely that they found and nurtured free, productive societies — American intervention to promote such an outcome was treated with trepidation. This feeling seemed to come from a belief that not only was the US stretched for resources at the moment, but also that our efforts might be counterproductive. I should probably change “might” to”‘would” to accurately portray the pessimism voiced by the group regarding American actions to help shape the realignment.
- Continuing on the following thread, their was very little enthusiasm for the United States getting itself involved in a meaningful way in Syria.
- American domestic politics, specifically the upcoming presidential election in 2012, was brought up as a major influence on American policy and actions toward Syria, Egypt, etc. In other words, the group thought that the Obama administration would not carry out any policy or action that might jeopardize its chances on securing a second term. There was not much discussion/opinion on how a Mitt Romney presidency would handle the Syrian crisis or the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.
Do you find yourself agree with this small sample of Americans? What do their views of the Arab Spring say about America?