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  • Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama articulated his vision for the future of American space exploration, which included an eventual manned mission to Mars. Such an endeavor would surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- maybe even $1 trillion. Whatever the amount, it would be an expensive undertaking. In the past, only three motivations have led societies to spend that kind of capital on ambitious, speculative projects: the celebration of a divine or royal power, the search for profit, and war. Examples of praising power at great expense include the pyramids in Egypt, the vast terra-cotta army buried along with the first emperor of China, and the Taj Mahal in India. Seeking riches in the New World, the monarchs of Iberia funded the great voyages of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan. And military incentives spurred the building of the Great Wall of China, which helped keep the Mongols at bay, and the Manhattan Project, whose scientists conceived, designed, and built the first atomic bomb.
  • Political Geography: China, America, India, Egypt
  • Author: Lisa Anderson
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In Tunisia, protesters escalated calls for the restoration of the country's suspended constitution. Meanwhile, Egyptians rose in revolt as strikes across the country brought daily life to a halt and toppled the government. In Libya, provincial leaders worked feverishly to strengthen their newly independent republic. It was 1919. That year's events demonstrate that the global diffusion of information and expectations -- so vividly on display in Tahrir Square this past winter -- is not a result of the Internet and social media. The inspirational rhetoric of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech, which helped spark the 1919 upheavals, made its way around the world by telegraph. The uprisings of 1919 also suggest that the calculated spread of popular movements, seen across the Arab world last winter, is not a new phenomenon. The Egyptian Facebook campaigners are the modern incarnation of Arab nationalist networks whose broadsheets disseminated strategies for civil disobedience throughout the region in the years after World War I. The important story about the 2011 Arab revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is not how the globalization of the norms of civic engagement shaped the protesters' aspirations. Nor is it about how activists used technology to share ideas and tactics. Instead, the critical issue is how and why these ambitions and techniques resonated in their various local contexts. The patterns and demographics of the protests varied widely. The demonstrations in Tunisia spiraled toward the capital from the neglected rural areas, finding common cause with a once powerful but much repressed labor movement. In Egypt, by contrast, urbane and cosmopolitan young people in the major cities organized the uprisings. Meanwhile, in Libya, ragtag bands of armed rebels in the eastern provinces ignited the protests, revealing the tribal and regional cleavages that have beset the country for decades. Although they shared a common call for personal dignity and responsive government, the revolutions across these three countries reflected divergent economic grievances and social dynamics -- legacies of their diverse encounters with modern Europe and decades under unique regimes.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Libya, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jack A. Goldstone
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Revolutions rarely succeed, writes one of the world's leading experts on the subject -- except for revolutions against corrupt and personalist "sultanistic" regimes. This helps explain why Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak fell -- and also why some other governments in the region will prove more resilient.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Soviet Union, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Dina Shehata
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Mubarak's ouster was the natural outgrowth of his regime's corruption and economic exclusion, the alienation of Egypt's youth, and divisions among the country's elites. How those elites and the young protesters realign themselves now will determine whether post-Mubarak Egypt emerges as a true democracy.
  • Topic: World Bank
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Mark Blyth, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The upheavals in the Middle East have much in common with the recent global financial crisis: both were plausible worst-case scenarios whose probability was dramatically underestimated. When policymakers try to suppress economic or political volatility, they only increase the risk of blowups.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Shadi Hamid
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: For decades, U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been paralyzed by "the Islamist dilemma" -- how can the United States promote democracy in the region without risking bringing Islamists to power? Now, it seems, the United States no longer has a choice. Popular revolutions have swept U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes from power in Tunisia and Egypt and put Libya's on notice. If truly democratic governments form in their wake, they are likely to include significant representation of mainstream Islamist groups. Like it or not, the United States will have to learn to live with political Islam. Washington tends to question whether Islamists' religious commitments can coexist with respect for democracy, pluralism, and women's rights. But what the United States really fears are the kinds of foreign policies such groups might pursue. Unlike the Middle East's pro-Western autocracies, Islamists have a distinctive, albeit vague, conception of an Arab world that is confident, independent, and willing to project influence beyond its borders. There is no question that democracy will make the region more unpredictable and some governments there less amenable to U.S. security interests. At their core, however, mainstream Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan and al Nahda in Tunisia, have strong pragmatic tendencies. When their survival has required it, they have proved willing to compromise their ideology and make di⁄cult choices. To guide the new, rapidly evolving Middle East in a favorable direction, the United States should play to these instincts by entering into a strategic dialogue with the region's Islamist groups and parties. Through engagement, the United States can encourage these Islamists to respect key Western interests, including advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, countering Iran, and combating terrorism. It will be better to develop such ties with opposition groups now, while the United States still has leverage, rather than later, after they are already in power.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Daniel Byman
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On December 17, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire to protest police harassment. His death incited unrest throughout Tunisia; less than a month later, protests toppled Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Egypt, the most populous and influential country in the Arab world, soon followed suit. Al Qaeda met both these dramatic events with near silence. Only in mid-February did Osama bin Laden's Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, officer comments. But even then, he did not directly address the revolutions or explain how jihadists should respond. Instead, he claimed that the Tunisian revolution occurred "against the agent of America and France," gamely trying to transform Tunisians' fight against corruption and repression into a victory for anti-Western jihadists. On Egypt, Zawahiri offered a rambling history lesson, ranging from Napoleon to the tyranny of the Mubarak government. He released his statement on Egypt on February 18, a week after Hosni Mubarak resigned, and offered little guidance to potential followers on how they should view the revolution or react to it. U.S. politicians are moving quickly to claim the revolutions and al Qaeda's muted response as victories in the struggle against terrorism. "This revolution is a repudiation of al Qaeda," declared Senator John McCain during a visit to Cairo on February 27. And indeed, looking out from bin Laden's cave, the Arab world looks less promising than it did only a few months ago. Although bin Laden and al Qaeda have been attempting to overthrow Arab governments for more than 20 years, the toppling of the seemingly solid dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt caught them flat-footed and undermined their message of violent jihad. Nevertheless, al Qaeda and its allies could ultimately benefit from the unrest. For now, al Qaeda has greater operational freedom of action, and bin Laden and his allies will seek to exploit any further unrest in the months and years to come.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Michael L. Ross
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Summary: No state with serious oil wealth has ever transformed into a democracy. Oil lets dictators buy off citizens, keep their finances secret, and spend wildly on arms. To prevent the “resource curse” from dashing the hopes of the Arab Spring, Washington should push for more transparent oil markets -- and curb its own oil addiction. MICHAEL L. ROSS is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of the forthcoming book The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations. Even before this year's Arab uprisings, the Middle East was not an undifferentiated block of authoritarianism. The citizens of countries with little or no oil, such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, generally had more freedom than those of countries with lots of it, such as Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. And once the tumult started, the oil-rich regimes were more effective at fending off attempts to unseat them. Indeed, the Arab Spring has seriously threatened just one oil-funded ruler -- Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi -- and only because NATO's intervention prevented the rebels' certain defeat. Worldwide, democracy has made impressive strides over the last three decades: just 30 percent of the world's governments were democratic in 1980; about 60 percent are today. Yet almost all the democratic governments that emerged during that period were in countries with little or no oil; in fact, countries that produced less than $100 per capita of oil per year (about what Ukraine and Vietnam produce) were three times as likely to democratize as countries that produced more than that. No country with more than a fraction of the per capita oil wealth of Bahrain, Iraq, or Libya has ever successfully gone from dictatorship to democracy. Scholars have called this the oil curse, arguing that oil wealth leads to authoritarianism, economic instability, corruption, and violent conflict. Skeptics claim that the correlation between oil and repression is a coincidence. As Dick Cheney, then the CEO of Haliburton, remarked at a 1996 energy conference, "The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas reserves where there are democratic governments." But divine intervention did not cause repression in the Middle East: hydrocarbons did. There is no getting around the fact that countries in the region are less free because they produce and sell oil.
  • Topic: NATO, Government, Oil
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Ukraine, Middle East, Kuwait, Libya, Vietnam, California, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Author: William McCants
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On 9/11, the global jihadist movement burst into the world's consciousness, but a decade later, thanks in part to the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is in crisis. With Western-backed dictators falling, al Qaeda might seem closer than ever to its goal of building Islamic states. But the revolutions have empowered the group's chief rivals instead: Islamist parliamentarians, who are willing to use ballots, not bombs.
  • Topic: Cold War, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Soviet Union, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Eric Trager
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The protesters who led Egypt's revolt last January were young, liberal, and linked-in. They were the bloggers who first proposed the demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak on Twitter; the Facebook-based activists who invited their "friends" to protest; and Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google executive who, after Egypt's state security agency detained him for 12 days, rallied the crowds to hold Tahrir Square. Far from emulating Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, they channeled Thomas Paine, calling for civil liberties, religious equality, and an end to Mubarak's dictatorship. Their determination, punctuated by the speed of their triumph, fueled optimism that the long-awaited Arab Spring had finally sprung -- that the Middle East would no longer be an autocratic exception in an increasingly democratic world. The political transition following their revolt, however, has dulled this optimism. The iconic youths of Tahrir Square are now deeply divided among nearly a dozen, often indistinguishable political parties, almost all of which are either too new to be known or too discredited by their cooperation with the previous regime. Concentrated within the small percentage of Internet-using, politically literate Egyptians, their numbers are surprisingly small. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, which largely avoided the limelight during the revolt, is seizing the political momentum. The Brotherhood is Egypt's most cohesive political movement, with an unparalleled ability to mobilize its followers, who will serve it extremely well in a country still unaccustomed to voting. To understand the sources of the Brotherhood's political strength, and the reasons why it is unlikely to temper its ideology, it helps to take a close look at its organizational structure and the nature of its membership. From January through March of this year, I interviewed nearly 30 current and former Muslim Brothers in an attempt to do just that. Whereas Egypt's liberal and leftist political parties are nearly as easy to join as parties in the West, becoming a full-fledged Muslim Brother is a five- to eight-year process, during which aspiring members are closely watched for their loyalty to the cause and are indoctrinated in the Brotherhood's curriculum. This intricate system for recruitment and internal promotion produces members who are strongly committed to the organization's purpose, enabling its leaders it to mobilize its followers as they see fit.
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Jeff Martini, Julie Taylor
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Many of the iconic images from Egypt's revolution depict the Egyptian military supporting the uprising in Tahrir Square. As soldiers joined demonstrators and allowed them to scrawl "Mubarak Leave" on the sides of their tanks, the protesters became convinced that the military would protect the revolution and move Egypt toward democracy. The Egyptian army's top commanders pledged to do just that. The day after Hosni Mubarak fell, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military body now governing the country, vowed to "ensure a peaceful transition of authority within a free and democratic system that allows an elected civilian authority to take charge of governing the country." Yet the SCAF's attempts to curtail dissent and the democratic process have fueled doubts about its true intentions. Will the military fulfill its promise to support democracy? Or will it seek to replace Mubarak's rule with its own or that of a friendly autocrat? Thus far, the evidence suggests that the SCAF does not want to continue ruling the country after Egypt's parliamentary elections this fall, nor does it want to return the country to a single-party system. But that should provide little comfort to those hoping to see Egypt become a full democracy, in which the military is subordinate to civilian rule. Above all, the generals are determined to preserve stability and protect their privileged position. They recognize that ruling the country directly threatens their position by potentially provoking instability, exposing them to public criticism, and dividing their ranks. And they want to avoid being blamed for Egypt's growing economic and social problems, such as double-digit inflation and unemployment, continued labor unrest, and a rise in crime. As a result, the SCAF is eager to hand power over to an elected government -- but only to preserve its power and perks, not out of some deep-seated belief in democracy.
  • Topic: Crime
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Steven A. Cook
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Bruce Rutherford's Egypt After Mubarak is an ambitious effort to explain how the Muslim Brotherhood, the judiciary, and the business sector can work in parallel, if not exactly together, to influence Egypt's political future.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Egypt