Talking to the Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream Islamist organizations should be a central, ongoing task for American diplomats in the Middle East. It would do more to restore the tarnished image of the United States in the Arab world than any public diplomacy initiative launched so far.
Mass demonstrations in Lebanon, joint protest rallies of Egyptian Islamists and liberals against the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and municipal elections in Saudi Arabia are just as much features of the current situation as are cease-fire declarations by Palestinian resistance movements and multiparty negotiations for forming a coalition government in Iraq.
The essential ingredient the Arab spring is not what occurred in the White House. It is, instead, what occurred on the streets of Ramallah, Cairo and Beirut.
The assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has forced the Lebanese to confront one another on the question of Syria’s role in the Lebanese political system and has pitted pro-Syria politicians with vested interests in the status quo against an increasingly vocal opposition movement backed by popular demonstrations.
Despite predictions that the American march into Baghdad would unleash either a wave of democratization or a plague of repression throughout the region, in reality most Middle Eastern states are too preoccupied with domestic problems to be moved profoundly by events in Iraq. Iraq will have a political impact on the region, but changes are likely to come in smaller steps than commonly predicted.
When, where, and how should the United States use military force? Drawing upon twelve recent case studies--including Bosnia, Somalia, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, and the Gulf War--Richard Haass suggests political and military guidelines for potential U.S. military interventions ranging from peacekeeping and humanitarian operations to preventive strikes and all-out warfare.