Time to think of a new Middle East?

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. You can comment here or there.

At this writing, it is still too early to know the outcome of the uprising in Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak has called in the military to reinforce (or substitute for) police forces that have failed so far to quiet the unrest. What role the military will actually play remains unclear. At least one unit appears to have sided with the protesters. Other units have taken up positions guarding national heritage sites and government buildings. But on the second day of this intervention, I have yet to hear of any clashes involving the military.1 2

I have seen specific reports of unrest in Jordan, Libya, and particularly in Yemen.

Stratfor, a realist (think realpolitik) think tank, has carried a report it says is unverified that the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip is now unguarded, and that Hamas is linking up with the Muslim Brotherhood—which has so far, apparently, played only a peripheral role in the protests.3 Whether or not that report proves to be true, I’m thinking any new regime in Egypt would be far less likely to support Israeli policy—including a brutal ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip—towards the Palestinians than the Mubarak regime.4 5

Indeed, if these uprisings—driven in part by escalating food prices,6 which some blame on climate change,7 8 9 and hence principally on the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world—replace authoritarian regimes with governments that are less willing to be bought off by the United States, the status quo which enables Israel to act as a regional bully may be upended.

These governments may also be far less willing to take the blame for U.S. drone attacks against their people.10 Indeed, the U.S. policy of unlimited, endless war anywhere in the world11 12 may be undercut in the very region that the Islamophobia of the United States focuses upon.

And that the United States, for all its financial and military assistance, manifestly cannot guarantee the survival of authoritarian regimes will not go unnoticed by those who have acted to mitigate Arab anger at the United States. Nor will it go unnoticed by those who rise up against those regimes. And it will not go unnoticed by those closer to home who perceive a loss of U.S. influence.

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