Regime Change in the Middle East

Not all of it is the result of armed intervention. Two pillars of stability in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are on the verge of a potentially generational change in leadership, and of course the result is alarmism. In some ways I take a contrarian view of the Middle East: It’s neither as important nor as “on the brink” as it’s consistently portrayed. There’s a sometimes abrupt and sometimes gradual ebb and flow between violence and enmity on the one hand and hard-nosed realism and treachery on the other, all of which makes for a much more fluid strategic environment than we usually portray. Compare three regional snapshots — one in 1970, one in 1990 and one in 2010 — and you’ll see what I mean. And if you reduce the timespans between them — to, say, 1975-1985-1995-2005 — the contrast is perhaps even more striking.

In the post-Mubarak/Abdullah era, some things will change, others will stay the same. And we will probably have a much smaller impact in determining which is which than we would like to believe.

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