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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Middle East & North Africa > North Africa > Algeria > How should the U.S. respond to the protests in the Middle East?

How should the U.S. respond to the protests in the Middle East?

Hussein Agha, The Washington Post   |   30 Jan 2011

Decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East are coming back to haunt Washington. The United States backed Arab regimes that supported U.S. objectives irrespective of whether they legitimately represented popular aspirations. It propped up "moderate" rulers whose moderation consisted almost exclusively of cooperating with American policies. The more they aligned themselves with Washington, the more generous America's support and the greater the erosion of their domestic credibility. As a result, the United States now faces a battle it cannot win.

To continue supporting unpopular rulers would further alienate those who are most likely to assume power in the future. Openly siding with the street would strain ties with regimes that might survive the unrest and whose help the United States still needs; signal to America's remaining friends that its support is fickle; precipitate the rise of forces hostile to U.S. interests; and do little to persuade demonstrators who will see in America's midnight conversion hypocrisy and opportunism.

Washington can cut its losses and begin turning the page in its relations with the Arab world. That will have to wait. For now, it means assuming a low profile and resisting the temptation to become part of the story. That hardly is an exciting agenda, but the United States could do far worse than do very little.

Agha is senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford University; Malley is Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group and was special assistant to the president for Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998 to 2001

The Washington Post

 
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