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  • Author: Aqil Shah
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States has a major stake in Pakistan's stability, given the country's central role in the U.S.-led effort to, in U.S. President Barack Obama's words, "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" al Qaeda; its war-prone rivalry with India over Kashmir; and its nuclear arsenal. As a result, U.S. policy toward Pakistan has been dominated by concerns for its stability -- providing the reasoning for Washington's backing of the Pakistani military's frequent interventions in domestic politics -- at the expense of its democratic institutions. But as the recent eruption of protests in the Middle East against U.S.-backed tyrants has shown, authoritarian stability is not always a winning bet. Despite U.S. efforts to promote it, stability is hardly Pakistan's distinguishing feature. Indeed, many observers fear that Pakistan could become the world's first nuclear-armed failed state. Their worry is not without reason. More than 63 years after independence, Pakistan is faced with a crumbling economy and a pernicious Taliban insurgency radiating from its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the semiautonomous seven districts and six smaller regions along its border with Afghanistan. It is still struggling to meet its population's basic needs. More than half its population faces severe poverty, which fuels resentment against the government and feeds political instability. According to the World Bank, the Pakistani state's effectiveness has actually been in steady decline for the last two decades. In 2010, Foreign Policy even ranked Pakistan as number ten on its Failed States Index, placing it in the "critical" category with such other failed or failing states as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. The consequences of its failure would no doubt be catastrophic, if for no other reason than al Qaeda and its affiliates could possibly get control of the country's atomic weapons. The Pakistani Taliban's dramatic incursions into Pakistan's northwestern Buner District (just 65 miles from the capital) in 2009 raised the specter of such a takeover.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Washington, Middle East, India, Kashmir
  • 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: Michael Crawford, Jami Miscik
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Governments across the Middle East and South Asia are increasingly losing power to substate actors that are inserting themselves at a mezzanine level of rule between the government and the people. Western policymakers must address the problem systematically, at both a political and a legal level, rather than continue to pursue reactive and disjointed measures on a case-by-case basis.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Richard N. Haass, Martin Indyk
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: To be successful in the Middle East, the Obama administration will need to move beyond Iraq, find ways to deal constructively with Iran, and forge a final-status Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
  • Topic: Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Walter Russell Mead
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: If it hopes to bring peace to the Middle East, the Obama administration must put Palestinian politics and goals first.
  • Topic: Security, Government, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Amitai Etzioni
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Old international institutions must be updated to tackle transnational challenges. The most promising model for doing so is the Proliferation Security Initiative, a recent cooperative effort to interdict weapons of mass destruction.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, North Korea
  • Author: Bronwyn Bruton
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Washington's repeated attempts to bring peace to Somalia with state-building initiatives have failed, even backfired. It should renounce political intervention and encourage local development without trying to improve governance.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Somalia