Tea Party grapples with US role in the Middle East

(By Deutsche Welle) As the Republican presidential primary intensifies and turmoil in the Mideast simmers, Tea Party candidates are venturing beyond their focus on the economy and articulating their views on America’s role in the world.

As the Republican presidential primary gets into full swing, the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement has made its voice heard at an early stage. In Iowa, populist candidate Michele Bachmann and libertarian Ron Paul came in first and second respectively in a preliminary poll seen as a test of campaign strength, beating out establishment candidates such as Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who subsequently quit the contest.

Although foreign policy has been largely overshadowed by the dismal state of the American economy, political upheaval in the Middle East has forced increasingly prominent Tea Party-associated candidates to articulate clearer positions on the US role in the world as the battle for front-runner status escalates.

“The Tea Party did not arise out of a concern with foreign policy,” Stephen Walt, an expert on US foreign policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told Deutsche Welle.

“You haven’t seen them articulate or weigh in a well-defined foreign policy position in the way you have seen them weigh in on the budget battle and on health care.”

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Anatomy of Arab revolutions shows trend toward democracy

(By Deutsche Welle) Although the Arab world has traditionally lagged behind the global trend toward greater democracy, a liberal revolution that began in Tunisia has put monarchies and dictators throughout the region on the defensive.

For decades, the Arab world stagnated under authoritarianism despite a global expansion of democracy beyond its historic core in North America and Western Europe. According to the US think tank Freedom House, the number of democracies in the world more than doubled by the new millennium, as communism collapsed and strongmen from Latin America to Southeast Asia were forced from power.

Although the Middle East appeared immune to this liberalizing trend, popular uprisings now referred to as the “Arab Spring” have successfully forced authoritarian regimes from power in Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrating that even political heavyweights like former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak are ultimately accountable to the people.

“We’re seeing in a sense the global spread of the aspirations for democracy finally coming to the surface in the Arab world,” Jack Goldstone, an expert on revolutions with George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, told Deutsche Welle.

But turning an uprising against an authoritarian leader into a broader revolution that brings true political change is more difficult. Although the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia have been successfully ousted, the future is uncertain. And in Libya, Syria and Yemen, peaceful calls for civil rights have descended into violence.

“Whether this results in revolutions or not depends on the local regimes,” Goldstone said.

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