News / USA

Obama Strategy on Arab Spring Served US Interests

A year after the Arab Spring protests began, some regional experts say, the US administration's strategy in regards to the popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa have paid off.
A year after the Arab Spring protests began, some regional experts say, the US administration's strategy in regards to the popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa have paid off.

President Barack Obama's cautious response to the popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa has drawn frequent criticism. But a year after the Arab Spring protests began, some regional experts say, the administration’s strategy paid off.

December 17, 2010, in Tunisia. A street vendor, Mohamed Bouaziz, sets himself on fire in a protest against government policies and dies, becoming the catalyst for a Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring.

Within months, demonstrations arise in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is ousted.

And by year's end, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

The U.S. and NATO provided air support to protect civilians against government forces in Libya.

US backs Arab reform

But the Arab Spring proved hard to predict. Leaders both friendly and unfriendly to the U.S. fell, and it wasn't until May that Obama firmly put the U.S. on the side of Arab reform.

"We support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region. Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest," said Obama.

Eventual support by the U.S. for the Arab Spring prompted criticism that the administration had not been as supportive of Iranian protesters in 2009. But U.S. presidents often face difficult decisions where revolutions are concerned, said Walter Russell Mead, professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College.

"I think the idea that an American president of any party can sort of figure out from day one the deep master plan for dealing with revolutionary transformations in half a dozen strategically important countries, you know when you put it that way you realize that you can't," said Mead.

Applying key values


Obama based U.S. policy on core principles: opposing violence, universal rights and the right of people to choose their own leaders.

Were his calculations correct? Yes, says Kurt Werthmuller, a researcher at the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom.

“I think we do have to address that, there has been a relationship, there has been an inspiration from one place to another, but every part of the Arab world is unique," said Werthmuller.

Hurdles ahead

Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute said that while Obama was correct to not take a single, blanket approach, rapidly moving events at times drove administration policies.

"The administration’s answer to the Arab Spring very much reflected this interest in not being sidelined by the events of history, of jumping into the wagon of what was obviously taking place. And thus in many cases, an initial cautiousness that should have been there was removed and the street was driving the action rather than a clear policy in that regard," said Tadros.

Tadros and other regional experts caution that events in the Middle East are part of a long-term transformation, with risks, including the potential rise of Islamism in Egypt and potential civil war in Syria. They say the process will take decades to play out and will remain a challenge for U.S. presidents.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More