Across the Middle East and North Africa, the ousting of dictators has given way to the messy challenges of creating new governments and writing new rules. Tunisia was the first country in the ongoing wave of protests where protestors pushed a repressive ruler out of power. Now, an elected body is drafting a new constitution for the nation.
In September, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) will hold final discussions on draft constitutional language that has been prepared by its committees. That’s why the coming days are so important. The NCA had been elected in October of 2011 to write Tunisia’s post-dictatorship constitution.
On January 1 of this year, few would have predicted that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak would soon be removed from office. But just three weeks later, thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to begin the push for change. In the aftermath of Tunisia’s political shakeup, Egyptian citizens called for an end to the authoritarian regime that controlled their lives. Never before had Mubarak faced such a massive challenge. After decades of torture, corruption, and fraudulent elections, the Western world’s favorite “moderate” dictator was about to be removed from power.
Looking back, there were key underlying political conditions that made this popular revolt possible. After enduring some 25 years of dictatorship, Egyptian activists had already broken the taboo of publicly challenging Mubarak’s regime in 2004 and 2005. And with the dictator’s ailing health, the Egyptian public faced the specter of a 2011 handoff of power from the father to his son, Gamal Mubarak. Trapped between a dictator and the heavy US investments that supported his regime, the Egyptian public was ready for the Tunisian spark that inspired them to action.
Whatever their rivalries, the authoritarian leaders of the Middle East did not want to see Hosni Mubarak removed from power. When you are a dictator – even with the title “King” – the forced departure of another dictator is not the kind of precedent you want set.
Worth noting is that this group of Mubarak loyalists was joined by Israeli leaders as well. Though frequent in their exhortation of democratic values, Israeli officials offered a degree of praise for Mubarak at a time when hundreds of his own people were dying in protests against his regime.
The challenge for Israel is that much of its foreign policy has depended on the continuation of other dictatorships. Whether it is Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan, Israel has come to depend on having nondemocratic neighbors who rely on US patronage. Israeli policymakers fear that if these autocratic rulers are removed from power, Arab majorities will select leaders who are hostile to Israel. Continue reading “Arab Freedom Is Good for Israel”
Alternating between criticism and praise, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke about US-Pakistan relations at the Harvard Kennedy School on Monday, October 18th. Qureshi was at HKS on the eve of a US-Pakistan strategic dialogue with senior US officials in Washington DC.
In his comments, Qureshi offered blunt criticism of the history of US foreign policy towards Pakistan. “We see half a century of indisputable, empirical evidence of the US dancing with dictators who subverted human rights, using our people and soldiers as surrogates in proxy wars,” he stated.
Speaking at Harvard last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized Israel’s decision to continue building settlements on Palestinian land:
Jewish settlements [themselves] are illegal. How can we talk on the extension of [the] moratorium or extension of Jewish settlements?
With peace negotiations on the verge of falling apart, the comments demonstrate increasing anger at Israel from a former ally. The Turkish Foreign Minister also declared Gaza an “open prison” and stated that Palestinians have “the full right to live in their own country with full sovereignty based on 1967 territory, including Eastern Jerusalem.”
Although the reporting has improved in recent years, U.S. media coverage of the “war on drugs” continues to ignore the economic realities of just who is fighting who in the conflict. The drug war is best understood as a battle of dollar versus dollar — a bloody war between the dollars of U.S. taxpayers and the dollars of U.S. consumers.
It is time to set aside the notion that U.S. drone missile attacks in Pakistan are some kind of secret. The pretense of secrecy has saved Obama Administration officials from having to publicly defend the military tactic.
The U.S. State Department is now tracking the number of emails received opposing U.S. drone missile attacks in Pakistan. What will the final number be?
50? 500? 5000?
After emailing the State Department to oppose drone missile attacks, I received the message below. You may have as well. This means that senior State Department officials will eventually get a report on the total emails received.
The latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.
None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.
It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.