US Foreign Policy in Arab World Needs Overhaul

Better intelligence needed, less realpolitik, fear of Islamism
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2011 9:30 AM CST
Remaining Egyptian protesters shout slogans as they are surrounded by army soldiers trying to lead them away from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt Sunday morning, Feb. 13, 2011.    (AP Photo/Manoocher Deghati)

(Newser) – With Hosni Mubarak finally out of power in Egypt, "It's a new day in the Arab world," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times—and hopefully here, as well. "The truth is that the United States has been behind the curve not only in Tunisia and Egypt for the last few weeks, but in the entire Middle East for decades." To fix that, Kristof offers up four changes:

  • Get over Islamic fundamentalism. "American paranoia about Islamism has done as much damage as Muslim fundamentalism itself," and as democracy takes hold in the Arab world, "the biggest loser will be al-Qaeda."

  • Get better intelligence: "The kind that is derived not from intercepting a president’s phone calls to his mistress but from hanging out with the powerless."The intelligence community and the media alike whiffed on Egypt, Kristof writes.
  • Invest more in information technologies. "The best way to nurture changes in Iran, North Korea and Cuba will involve broadcasts, mobile phones, and proxy servers to leap over Internet barriers."
  • Get a foreign policy based on American values. As Condi Rice once put it, "the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, and we achieved neither.” The "next Egypt" could be anywhere and we'd do well to "not sit on the fence" again, Kristof writes.
For Kristof's full column, click here.

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