The Great Dictator.avi
The other article covering the Middle East, by Avi Kober, discusses how Israel's battlefield performance in the succession of Arab-Israeli wars from 1948 through 1982 was affected by the involvement of great powers (mostly the United States and the Soviet Union, though also France and Britain in 1948 and 1956). Israeli officials perennially feared that great-power intervention would prevent them from attaining success on the battlefield and force them to reverse gains they had already achieved. Kober finds that, on the contrary, great-power involvement actually proved to be an asset for Israel rather than a liability. Israel's repeated victories over the Arabs were attributable not only to military prowess but to external intervention. Hostile great powers, Kober argues, were unwilling or unable to confront Israel directly, whereas the support provided by friendly great powers strengthened Israel's own military efforts.
The great dictator.avi
Next to their daily bread, what affects the people most widely is what touches the code of social habit that, in Islam, is endorsed by religion. Among Muslims, the Iranians are not a fanatical people. The unveiling of women inaugurated in the preceding year attacks the people's social conservatism as much as their religious prejudice. Above all, like conscription, it symbolizes the steady penetration into their daily lives of an influence that brings with it more outside interference, more taxation. But one can easily exaggerate the popular effect of unveiling; it is a revolution for the well-to-do of the towns, but lower down the scale, where women perform outdoor manual labour, its effects both on habit and on the family budget diminish until among the tribal folk of all degrees they are comparatively slight. Hence, resistance among the greater part of the people has been passive, and, where existing, has manifested itself in reluctance of the older generation to go abroad in the streets. It is one thing to forbid women to veil; it is another thing to make them mingle freely with men
John Wright's A History of Libya is an updated edition of well-regarded standard, the first such book to be published since the uprising. I reviewed older books about Libya last year, and this one has the merit of going into pre-modern Libya (Vandals!) in great detail.
A new collection of articles about Egypt that appeared in Middle East Report in the last decade or so is now out. It's edited by Chris Toensing and Jeannie Sowers, and includes a piece by me as well as other blog contributors, friends, and leading Egypt experts (Mona El-Ghobashy, Tim Mitchell, Joel Beinin, etc.). It's a great way to review late Mubarak Egypt and the January 2011 uprising, as well support the excellent MERIP.
Catherine Wood, the founder, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Ark Invest, is a well-followed stock guru not only in the U.S. but also in China, where many writers report enthusiastically on the fund movements daily, especially when there are major changes that involve Chinese companies. It's telling that the share price uptrend of Tencent since late December coincided with the increased weightage of the social media and gaming titan across the ARK ETFs. I discussed this in greater detail in a prior article.
JAMES LINDSAY: Good morning, everyone. I'm Jim Lindsay, director of studies here at the Council on Foreign Relations. And on behalf of Richard Haass and the Council on Foreign Relations, I want to welcome you here to today's symposium on the implications of the Arab uprising.I'd like to begin my remarks today by saying thanks to people who have made today's very exciting event possible. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to a number of people.First and foremost, I want to thank longtime CFR member and supporter Rita Hauser and the Hauser Foundation for their support of today's symposium. The Hauser Foundation, with a generous gift to the council, has made it possible for us for several years now to hold a conference on a pressing topic in international affairs with a premier partner, in today's case St. Antony's, Oxford University. We've done a number of different topics, including how to counter radicalization of Muslim youth, China and climate change and the impact of Iraq on America's foreign and defense policy efforts. And we're looking forward to continuing the success we've had in past years today.I would also like to thank Margaret MacMillan, who was very gracious in her role as warden of St. Antony's College to appear last night and give a wonderful talk to kick off our -- this symposium. And I have to say if you have not read Margaret's book "Paris 1919: Six Months that Shook the World," you absolutely must. It is an absolutely superb book that deserved all of the awards, many awards, that it won.I also want to thank Michael Willis, director of the Middle East Centre at St. Antony's, for working with us to structure the conference and the panels and then come up with titles and what have you. We are also indebted to our panelists and colleagues from St. Antony's, Avi Shlaim and Marwa Daoudy and Eugene Rogan. Eugene and Avi actually have traveled a long way to get here today. Marwa was smart. She decided to spend the year at Princeton, so all she had to do is take a train into the city.And of course I want to thank my colleagues here in the David Rockefeller Studies Program for participating on today's panel, as you're going to get to see why Richard likes to refer to them as a cluster of excellence here at CFR.And finally, no conference like this comes off without a lot of hard work by people, and I want to do a shoutout to my good friend and colleague Nancy Bederth (sp) and her team, Stacy Loft-Vallette (sp), Vera Nola (sp), Megan Mills (sp), Jeff Gullow (sp), Kelly Calkinson (sp) and a variety of other people who have labored tirelessly to pull this all together and to make the rest of us look really good. And so thank you very, very much.Now the symposium today is structured to have five panels. Each of the panels will be on the record. So what you say, whether you're up here on the panel or if you ask a question from the audience, can be used against you. It will be public.I also have to ask everyone, if you have a cellphone, BlackBerry, any other wireless device, that you completely turn it off, not just vibrate or silence it, so we can avoid interference with the sound system here in the room.Now the past 15 months in the Arab world has been an incredibly tumultuous time. The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi back in December of 2010 helped trigger political (arrests/unrest ?) that has unseated rulers in Tunisia, in Egypt, Libya. It's produced brutal crackdowns in Bahrain, in Syria, and a newfound enthusiasm for reform measures in countries like Jordan and Morocco.Today's panels are looking to try to understand the drivers and implications of the events of the past 15 months, both within the Arab world and beyond them. I will say we're going to approach the topic with some degree of humility because of the complexity of the forces at play and our recognition that human contingency, human action still has a lot to say in how events play out.We have chosen to structure the conference to avoid limiting our attention to specific countries. There are almost two dozen countries in the Arab world. Each have their own histories and dynamics. So in contrast to sort of being country-specific, what we're going to attempt to do here today is look at issues thematically and try to parse out some of the broader trends and possibilities in the region.And our first panel today, along those lines, is "Prospects for Democracy." That's the title that we gave it. And I cannot think of two people better suited to help us make sense of the prospects of democracy in the Arab world than Michael Willis and Elliott Abrams. I will begin by introducing Michael first. He's on my immediate left. Michael is the head of the Middle East Centre at St. Antony's, as well as the King Mohamed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies.Michael knows the Maghreb as well as anyone. He has written an absolutely wonderful book called "The Islamist Challenge in Algeria." But he wasn't content to rest on his laurels. He has another book coming out, I think next month --MICHAEL WILLIS: Early May now -- (inaudible).LINDSAY: OK, OK, May, yeah, but it will be in the bookstores soon, or available for purchase and download on your Kindle in the near future. It's called "Politics and Power in the Maghreb," which is the political history of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.On the other side of the podium from me is my good friend and colleague Elliott Abrams, who is a senior fellow in Middle Eastern studies here at CFR. Elliott has worked extensively on Capitol Hill and in the White House. I'm not going to try to capture his full biography. I believe the program runs through all of the many posts that Elliott has, but -- held, but I do want to note two positions. I think they're relevant. One, he was senior director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs, and he was also deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy under President George W. Bush. Both qualifications, I think, are quite relevant to what we're going to be discussing here today.And I should also point out that Elliott is a prolific author who has a book of his own that's going to be coming out, potentially late this year, called "Battleground," which is a memoir and analysis of his time in the George W. Bush presidency.Let's shift to our topic. I'm going to begin by asking the first question to Michael. Over the past 15 months we've had a lot of labels for what we've been witnessing in the Arab world. It's been called the Arab Spring or the Arab reckoning, the Arab revolution. The phrase we have for the conference today is the Arab uprising. Whatever we choose to call the events that are now under way across the region, are we witnessing the birth or the potential birth of democracy, or something else?MR.: (Off mic.)WILLIS: Let me begin, first of all, by thanking, on behalf of the Middle East Centre, the council again for hosting us here at this great event. I think in answer (to your ?) question, as I think you indicated in your introduction, that over the last 15 months, we've seen something quite remarkable happen in the Arab world, that we had a whole series of very established and entrenched political regimes in the Arab world that have not changed for decades. And in the last 15 months, we've seen a new actor come on the political scene that has challenged them in many places, broken this established pattern. And this pattern has been large numbers of ordinary citizens on the streets demanding political change. Now, as you said, that has now led to the overthrow -- complete overthrow of two regimes, the departure of two very long-established, entrenched heads of state and creating problems in a number of other countries. So we have -- (suddenly ?) you have a situation where you have had regimes being changed, the leaders of the countries being changed by the presence of large numbers of people on the streets demanding change, imagine (itself ?) as a large broadening out of actually the influence. But if you -- if you think in -- if you talk about democracy, one of the ultimate things is the ability to change leaders and as -- that has been broadened out. Beforehand, of course, all decisions in pretty well all of the Arab states were decided by very, very small numbers of individuals. Suddenly you're getting another input of a -- of an actor that hasn't really been seen in the Arab world for a long, long time.Now, subsequent to that, in those states and also in virtually pretty well every other Arab state, you have seen changes to broaden participation through referendum(s), through organizing of the elections, new elections, changes to the constitution, which open the way to greater involvement of the ordinary populations in the decision-making -- decision systems in the Arab states. Does this equate to the establishment of full liberal democracy? No, but it's a significant step forward: the idea that ordinary people have a say in who governs them and what changes. And I think that's massive. I think also you've got to bear in mind that in one state, you do have set in place a road map for what seems to be pretty clearly the establishment of something that is a recognizable democracy; I'm speaking specifically of Tunisia. If you look at what has been put in place with elections, with a constitutional assembly being set up, and the first set of proper elections ever held in the country's history where virtually every single party that emerged from the elections were agreed on the establishment of a liberal democracy, and I think that is a significant step forward. So, no, it hasn't actually led to full liberal democracy -- a massive step in the -- in that direction, in my view. LINDSAY: Do you share that view, Elliott?ABRAMS: Mostly --LINDSAY (?): Yep.ABRAMS: -- not fully. I do think that the regimes that were overthrown were overthrown in a sense because they were illegitimate; that is, they had nothing to say to defend themselves. They were not successful economically. They were not democracies. They were not monarchies with traditional legitimacy and authority. They really had no coherent defense of their rule to make, which is, I think, why the monarchies, by the way, are doing better because they have some legitimacy. And these regimes were overthrown essentially in the name of democracy, which is really the reigning philosophy of government in the world. I think it's very difficult for regimes to defend themselves on any other grounds except in a few monarchies. The problem and the place where I disagree in part is I think that what has been triumphant so far is majority rule. The people coming into the streets say we deserve a role in government. Where I think I disagree with you -- with you is on the word "liberal." It isn't necessarily liberal democracy. It may be majoritarian tyranny. In Tunisia, for example, there was -- there were recently some prosecutions for violations of public morals and public order in a way that in Europe or the U.S. would be considered ridiculous: for showing the movie "Persepolis," for example. And the question, I think, is whether -- if you think of non-Islamists in Tunisia, if you think of Copts in Egypt, I think the question that remains to be seen is whether there will be not simply majority rule, but also what we would view as liberal democracy. LINDSAY: That gets us back to the famous article and book that Fareed Zakaria wrote about illiberal democracies; that what you see is the spread of elections but not necessarily the spread of constitutional protection of individual rights. And Michael, just on that question, is there any reason to be optimistic that those protections might develop? The reason I asked, I was struck by the example that Elliot used about the people being prosecuted for showing the movie "Persepolis," because if I go back 60 or 70 years in American history, there were movies that got banned; and things that we would today think it's ridiculous were not held to be ridiculous back then.So do we see the seeds where a more liberal democracy might take root?WILLIS: I think the first thing to say, of course, is it's very early. These things are still waiting to play out. I think you've also got to bear in mind that sometimes when we see things happening, they are more to do with some of the -- things like censorship, some of the sort of more illiberal acts by the government, which certainly are occurring, we tend to think they are the result of the ideology of the new people coming in, when I think in many places it's actually the hangover of practices that have been there for quite some time. The control of the Tunisian media, for example, was absolute under Ben Ali.I think in the case of Tunisia, the cases that you bring up, if you look at them closely, they're not quite as clear-cut as that. And the other thing was that a lot of them were deliberately provocative by a certain section of a population who have actually explicitly said to me on occasion, we want to provoke and we want to create problems to try and bring the Islamists out, to try and make them (producing ?). Things like the "Persepolis" thing was begun before even the elections. This was done by the interim government.So I think these things need to be looked at, but they -- (if ?) we lose the wider picture of what is happening. I think in a lot of countries -- and again, Tunisia is the one I probably -- where there's been most change which I certainly have studied the most is -- but there is a commitment to constitutional mechanisms that protect minorities. And a member of (Ennahda ?), a senior member of (Ennahda ?), who have now -- they got, what, 36 percent of the vote, 40 percent of the seats, they dominate the new government, put it to me, saying majority rule is great when you're in the majority. When you're in the minority, it's a problem. And he said: We were in the minority under Ben Ali and we suffered. We were the ones who were tortured and repressed in jail when we were out of power. We would prefer to have a system where the worst thing happens to us out of power is that we just have to sit and wait until the next election. If we create majoritarian system, if we create an authoritarian system, the day that turns against us we've got problems. And therefore, if we create a balanced system where everybody -- there's no complete -- you don't have complete victory or complete defeat, that would be a much better arrangement because that protects us. And it is actually in our interest. We don't want to be at the receiving end of a regime again.Now, to what extent this is understood in other countries, I'm not sure, but I think this sort of argument is being heard and being thought through. The Islamists in particular (have been -- suffered ?), and I think a lot of them are realizing what mechanisms can we put in place to prevent this, and seeing a little bit into the -- further into the future. So I think there are grounds of concern and there are issues, clearly. But the other interesting thing as we look at Tunisia is the fact that these are brought up by the opposition and then things have to be changed. And this is a great function in democracy. The job of an opposition now in the parliament is to actually -- to say, well, this is unacceptable, look at this, draw attention; things get changed. It's beginning to work like a proper government.And the Islamists say, well, we have to be so careful, because the press pick up on everything and change things. And I think that's great. Welcome to a -- you know, to the beginnings of a functioning democracy.So in Tunisia I'm hopeful. I think in other places I think there are more concerns, and I think (the end of it ?) has to be in putting actually the constitutional rules in place to provide these sort of protections.LINDSAY: Elliot, can I draw you out on a point? You made the observation that the governments that have fallen were illegitimate, or also the governments that are being challenged are considered to be illegitimate. But they've been i