History demonstrates that revolutions often result in new or renewed forms of despotism. One reason for caution regarding the future of the Arab Uprising is that few Middle Eastern countries have political pasts not dominated by monarchy, theocracy or the military. So previous rebellions ultimately enhanced rather than mitigated socio-political intolerance. After all, Iran’s activist mullahs and al-Qaida’s founders were the products of rebellions against monarchist totalitarianism, too. It remains to be seen whether Egypt will become more democratic or return to military rule, or if the turbulence of the post-Mubarak period will open the door for the Muslim Brotherhood […]

The wave of popular uprisings sweeping throughout the Middle East may give new life to what Evgeny Morozov, in his just-released book, “The Net Delusion,” called the “Google doctrine”: the “fervent conviction that given enough gadgets, connectivity and foreign funding, dictatorships are doomed.” Morozov initially dismissed that doctrine last August, when it appeared that the Iranian government had decisively broken that country’s Green Movement. But his assertion that new information technologies can just as easily be used in the service of strengthening authoritarian regimes as in toppling them is now being challenged by pundits citing the role of YouTube, Facebook […]

Historians will eventually gain a fuller understanding of the forces that propelled the 2011 Arab Rebellion and of the changes that made decades of pent-up anti-government rage explode at precisely this moment. But just two months into the still-spreading uprising, we already know some of the important factors motivating protesters. We have also seen the range of responses the protests have elicited from the various Middle Eastern governments facing mass calls for the end of their entrenched regimes. What we have learned so far suggests that the revolution, like a wildfire on wind-whipped dry brush, will continue to spread. And […]

While the full story of the Arab uprisings — and in particular the Libya chapter — has yet to be written, sea power has thus far seemed curiously absent from the events of the Arab Spring. Although one Libyan warship apparently bombarded rebel positions in Tripoli and another may have defected, maritime power has not been central to the course of that country’s revolution. Similarly, the Egyptian navy played no meaningful role in overthrowing Hosni Mubarak, and now remains at dock for lack of funding. And what of NATO? In theory, the effort to relieve Libya and manage the chaos […]

It has become conventional wisdom among U.S. and European policymakers that the Muslim Brotherhood, with its superior organizational structure, will dominate any quickly held election in a post-Mubarak Egypt. Invariably, observations to this effect are followed by warnings about the movement’s beliefs and its questionable commitment to democracy. Those warnings took on ominous overtones when the Brotherhood announced Feb. 21 that it will establish the Freedom and Justice Party to participate in future elections. Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s policy positions are indeed odious to Western sensibilities. In a democratic Egypt, however, the Brotherhood’s ideas may garner popular appeal. The […]

Charlie Sheen, U.S. Power and Libya

There’s so much to love about Charlie Sheen’s diatribes that about the only improvement I can think of would be to have Jean-Claude Van Damme be the one interviewing him. Obscured by the spectacle of Sheen’s crash-and-burn party are some very serious critiques of the consensus drug treatment paradigm in the U.S. But there are also some very important insights into U.S. foreign policy and national security. In particular, Sheen’s remarks, which I’m tempted to refer to as the Sheen Doctrine, illustrate one tendency prevalent on the left and another prevalent on the right, while succinctly articulating a major tenet […]

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