The biggest potential losers in the still-roiling revolutions of the Middle East and North Africa are the people themselves. Many are democrats at high risk of being overwhelmed over time by new dictators and organized religious extremists. But the uncontested winners are already quite clear: those who own, sell, and bet on oil.
In 1927, Ernest Hemingway published a collection of short stories titled "Men Without Women." Today, less than a century later, it sums up the predicament of a rising proportion of mankind. According to the United Nations, there are far more men than women on the planet.
The Middle East is in turmoil, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of gas is through the roof. All of which is good news—if you’re Anne Lauvergeon, who may be the world’s most effective proselytizer for nuclear energy.
Before Libyans rose up against him, Muammar Gaddafi used money, and well-timed diplomatic overtures, to worm his way into the West’s good graces. How Bush, Blair, and Berlusconi gave the brutal dictator a makeover.
Among life’s surreal experiences, few can compare with finding myself seated on a baroque bench, one of dozens lining the perimeter of an ornate drawing room in the palace of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak in Abu Dhabi, chatting it up with three Ph.D.-endowed women sheathed in black abayas, sipping sweet hot tea and eating candies.
At the height of the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, I saw the crowds cleaved by a stream of girls and young women in pink and blue veils. Men formed a shield around them so they could move through the square unimpeded. When a solitary man tried to join the procession, he was turned away: “No! This is the women’s revolution.”
They’re exhilarating, of course. But from an American perspective, the revolutions transforming the Middle East are also deeply sad. They’re sad because they underscore what a terrible waste the last decade of American foreign policy has been. Since September 11, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those wars have cost thousands of young Americans their lives and maimed many more. And for what? We were told (and I, for one, believed) that in jihadist terrorism we faced a threat of epic military and ideological power. We were told that unless we toppled anti-American regimes and imposed American ideals, the military and ideological balance would tip decisively in our enemies’ favor. “I will not wait on events,” vowed George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address. We were told to wage war because time was not on our side.
Western decision makers would be worried enough about what might emerge from massive popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and from the simmering conflicts in Bahrain and Yemen, but they’re also contemplating the prospect that similar unrest could spread far outside the Arab world, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.
Whoever Libya’s new rulers turn out to be, their challenge will be to learn from the lessons of its recent sad history, and then to move resolutely forward with compromise and wisdom—qualities that the Gaddafi regime came to lack so abjectly.
As revolutions across the Mideast bring religious parties within sight of real political power, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming the region’s go-to man for Islamist leaders looking for a makeover. Tunisia’s exiled Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is scheduled to visit Ankara in March, believes that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has shown others how to “align Islam with modernity,” pointing a path from the political wilderness to the mainstream. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is also following in Erdogan’s footsteps, setting up a moderate Freedom and Justice Party—which will include members of the Coptic Christian minority—to run in upcoming elections. Morocco’s Islamists have borrowed the Justice and Development Party’s name. In Jordan, too, the Islamic Action Front has called for King Abdullah to look to “the Turkish model.” A recent study conducted by the Istanbul-based TESEV think tank found that 75 percent of Arab respondents considered...
George Clooney proved that his pet project—bringing political change to war-torn Sudan—isn’t just a charity cause when he was arrested in Washington D.C. while protesting at the Sudanese Embassy. Clooney has made his case to high-powered individuals such as Bill Clinton. John Avlon exams how George Clooney is helping to bring change—and a hefty dose of hope—to Sudan.
Lara Logan kept going back to war, even after coming under enemy fire, even after an antitank missile struck her Humvee in Iraq and the soldier next to her lost his leg. Having children, however, changed her.
Irish voters look sure to punish their political masters in this week’s election. Polls suggest that the ruling Fianna Fáil government, widely blamed for the economic trauma of the past three years, will gain barely 15 percent of the vote, down more than 20 points from the last election in 2007.
It’s probably best not to even try making sense of Beijing’s pronouncements on the 14th Dalai Lama and other Tibetan spiritual leaders: you’ll only make your head hurt. Last week the officially atheist Chinese government’s State Administration for Religious Affairs disclosed plans to enact a new law forbidding the 75-year-old Buddhist deity to be reborn anywhere but on Chinese-controlled soil, and giving final say to Chinese authorities when the time comes to identify his 15th incarnation.
King Abdullah of Jordan has the good—or perhaps bad—fortune to have his prosaic memoirs published just as the Middle East is engulfed in momentous changes that began in Tunis a month ago, spread to Cairo, and now reverberate in other capitals, including, in a still-small way, his own.