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US must develop grand strategy in light of Middle East regime changes

Patricia DeGennaro [International Security Specialist, Senior Fellow, World Policy Institute]: "One Arab government after the other is falling - Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Following their lead are Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and perhaps even Iraq. The kings from Jordan and Saudi Arabia are handing out money to quell any rebellion. All of this is happening and the US are still struggling to define a new Middle East policy. Recently, the US passed up an easy chance to improve their credibility in the region by vetoing a UN resolution to declare Israeli settlements illegal. Further the Obama Administration has been taking the easy way out with nothing but tough rhetoric and clear indication of another massive intervention through war.

As Libya's leader continues to bomb his people, the use of force or at least a strong military containment contingent may be the best option at the moment. But that does not preclude the reality that the US need a robust grand strategy for the region. Allowing dictators and repressive governments to rule while doing nothing more than safeguarding Israeli and foreign oil interests is no longer a feasible strategy.

The Arab masses have spoken. The people want democracy and control of their own destinies. Further, they are willing to risk their lives for a new standard of rule "for and by the people." This is something that American policymakers have clearly forgotten how to support. The world has become global and multi-polar, but US policymakers have still not clued in. They forget that one act creates a domino effect that causes a ripple for the marginalized across the world.

It is time for the US to style its policy after the military's approach to the future operating environment: via a multi-level, multi-pronged, intricate and ever moving framework. Secretary of State Clinton, to her credit, rightly talks about the "whole of governance." Though the efforts to get to this state of US foreign policy readiness is nowhere in sight. The military brings in its own civilians while the Department of State and USAID place a full scale initiative toward integrative partnership on the back burner. All of this precludes the formulation of a comprehensive and effective policy in the Middle East.

The Secretary of State is stepping up, but far too slowly. There is an initiative to create country task forces, bring in humanitarian aid, and work with international partners. However, again, there is no clear idea as to the direction in which these efforts are going. Otherwise, Israel would be included and further pushed toward a democratic state that is inclusive of all religious groups. The region needs democratic support of a kind that allows the people to define their idea of a workable democracy. The US must hold true, as the President's Cairo speech insinuated, to its promise to honor the peoples' desire to chart their own destinies.

The US must be dedicated to developing a policy that works for all affected parties. Past policy, and not terrorism or Islamic extremism, has gotten the US and its international partners into this conundrum. The Arab people have demonstrated that the current political system is not working by an insurgency against ruling parties, governments, and practices. It is time to align with their interests."

This article was prepared for publication by Yuriy Vilner, an associate editor for JURIST's professional commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to him at professionalcommentary@jurist.org

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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