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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Issue 1921

Toward a Middle East Strategy
Introduction
Introduction

The Collapsing Strategic Context

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In designing an optimal American strategy toward the Middle East, two factors stand out.  One is that now, as most always in the past, the climate of opinion is both “this is the last chance for peace” and “this is a time when nothing can be done”.  The second is that whatever happens in the region at this point in the 21st century will affect and be affected by negative and dangerous new trends in the other power centers of the world: China, Russia, the U.S., and even the European Union.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

Why America Can't Quit The Middle East

by Hal Brandsvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 21, 2019

One of the most persistent myths about U.S. foreign policy is the idea that America desires—due to greed, messianic ideological impulses, or simple imperial presumptions—to dominate the Middle East. In reality, American policy has long been torn by two conflicting imperatives: The need to protect enduring U.S. interests, on the one hand, and the desire to stay clear of the region’s unending headaches, on the other. 

Featured Analysis

No Exit: The U.S. Predicament in the Middle East

by Henri J. Barkeyvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 21, 2019

“L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions” (the road to hell is paved with good intentions) goes a French expression. Years of American involvement in the Middle East to fashion a region that is stable, peaceful, more prosperous and more respectful of human rights has proven, so far at least, a failure. As a result, U.S. decision makers, thinkers and certainly the public at large are increasingly expressing their exasperation with that region.

Featured Analysis

Thinking About A Strategy For The Middle East

by Dennis Rossvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Strategy starts with understanding our interests and the objectives that flow from those interests.  In the Middle East, our interests have evolved but perhaps less than many may think.  After the Second World War, when the US assumed more global responsibilities, Democratic and Republican Presidents saw the Middle East as vital to our interests because of its oil and geo-strategic centrality.  The unimpeded flow of its oil was necessary for global economic health and for the reconstruction of Europe—which was perceived as an essential national security priority. 

Featured Analysis

“Going Short” In The Middle East

by Samuel Helfontvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In finance, “going short” is a way to make money on stocks that lose value. Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, reportedly used this tactic to make millions during financial crises. He did not know exactly when or why the markets would crash, but he knew they eventually would. Then he cashed in.  In many ways, going short is the opposite of traditional investment. In traditional investments one bets on success. In going short, one bets on failure. For over a decade, the United States has been trying to find a way to declare victory in the Middle East so that it can leave.

Featured Analysis

Middle East Perceptions Of An America Adrift

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 28, 2019

American strategy towards the Middle East has long been based on maintaining the twin pillars of security and stability in a region of geostrategic importance. At a crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has been historically significant for its energy supplies and passageways connecting the east and the west. To advance American interests, the United States has traditionally sought to maintain its position of influence through regional partnerships and with its military presence. Today though, there is a widespread perception that the US may be abandoning the Middle East. 

Featured Analysis

U.S. Middle East Strategy

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Middle East remains today a troublesome area for the United States. American interests in the region are threatened by a host of adversaries from a resurgent Russia, a hegemonic Iranian desire and campaign of subversion, and Jihadi threat that has morphed from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State. Moreover, despite long U.S. investments and alliances, the region remains deeply anti-American. 

Featured Analysis

The US Role In The Middle East In An Era Of Renewed Great Power Competition

by Eric Edelmanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What role should the United States play in the Middle East as its attention shifts to the objectives outlined in the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy of competing with near peers like Russia and China?  Today pundits and observers are posing this question against a backdrop of more than a decade and a half of costly, inconclusive and seemingly “endless” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the more recent deployment of roughly two thousand Special Forces troops to Syria as part of the counter ISIS campaign.  To President Trump the answer seems clear.  He noted in April 2018 at an Ohio rally “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.

Featured Analysis

Getting Back To Basics

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Since the end of the Cold War — and, most dramatically, in the Bush and Obama years — American strategy in the Middle East has shifted from one anchored in the state system to one focused on non-state actors, particularly terrorist groups, and on projects disconnected from geopolitics.  The result has been the return — after nearly five decades — of Russian sway, the commandeering of large swaths of territory by Iran, and the emergence on the scene of China. The Russian-Iranian military campaign in Syria, and the increasing Chinese influence in the Middle East require a return to Cold War principles.

Featured Analysis

U.S Middle East Policy Must Contend With The New Power On The Block

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Thursday, April 4, 2019

The year 1993 is not normally seen as a geopolitically defining year. As Bill Clinton took the oath of office in Washington, the big geopolitical events of the past few years -- the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, the rise of newly independent Eastern European states - continued to reverberate but the world, it seemed, had entered the post-Cold War peace dividend era and the American unipolar moment. Across Middle East capitals, there was no doubt who the great power was in the world. The United States had no rival.

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Featured Analysis

The Syrian Uprising: What Role Did Social Media Play?

by Qutaiba Idlbi, Kassem Eid (Qusai Zakarya) via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This essay combines the first-hand experiences and analyses of two young Syrian activists.  One, Kassem Eid, survived the sarin gas attack and starvation siege of his Mouadamiya suburb of Damascus.  He has written extensively in opinion pieces on the subject of the revolution in Syria.  Qutaiba Idlbi’s work has focused on the accountability of aid organizations.  He speaks widely on the nature of the Assad regime and the cause of the opposition.  He was twice imprisoned by Assad’s intelligence services at the age of 21.

Featured Analysis

A Trench War In The Digital Age: The Case Of Iran

by Abbas Milanivia The Caravan
Monday, June 12, 2017

A trench war, fought in our labyrinthine digital world, has been raging in the Islamic Republic of Iran for more than two decades. On one side is a youthful internet-savvy society—adept at the gender-neutral, hierarchy-averse pluralism of platforms and networks—a society craving to join the 21st century. On the other side is a clerical despotic regime with a claim to divine legitimacy, a parallel male-dominated septuagenarian elite, enamored of gender-apartheid and of ideas more than a millennium old—a power structure that is retrograde, passé and stale, compared to the vibrancy of Iranian society at large.  

Featured Analysis

Social Media: A Misplaced Hope

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Friday, June 9, 2017

Under the subtitle of “How an Egyptian revolution began on Facebook,” the New York Times in February 2012, ran a laudatory review of Wael Ghonim’s newly released book Revolution 2.0. The review noted how a young Google executive frustrated by his country’s injustices, especially police brutality, had started a Facebook page that quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of similarly frustrated young Egyptians, becoming both a platform for expressing anger as well as a mobilizing venue. 

Featured Analysis

Social Media: A Shaping Force Of Identity And Action – The Palestinian Case

by Harel Chorevvia The Caravan
Thursday, June 8, 2017

The global expansion of social media over the past decade has sparked a vibrant debate about its role in mobilizing political protest movements worldwide, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. Clay Shirky was among the first to claim that social media can serve as a tool for bolstering civil society and the public sphere. Others, like Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner, took this further and defined social media as a ‟liberation technology” with the power to expedite democratization processes. A counter-argument to these so-called “cyber optimists” came from thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov. These and other “cyber pessimists” argued that the impact of social media on the political arena is limited, and cautioned that repressive authorities might exploit it to suppress opponents. 

Featured Analysis

Social Media And The Gulf States: A Revolution That Is Not Revolutionary

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

“One of the startling discoveries of our time,” the author and social philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote nearly half a century ago, “is that revolutions are not revolutionary.” Hoffer’s insight has aged well. All across our world, particularly in the emerging world over the past three decades, we have been witnessing quiet revolutions that are “not revolutionary” driven by urbanization, growing middle classes, and increasing access to information coupled with the rocket fuel of rising aspirations. 

Introduction

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How has the development of social media and new communications technology influenced the political landscape in the Middle East? Has social media been used by a new generation as a force for democratization? As a force for radicalization by Islamists? Have repressive regimes within the region manipulated this internet phenomenon to monitor and hunt down those who seek change and modernization? There is a conflict inherent in social media - it is used for good and for evil depending on whose hands are at the controls. How can we harness this means of communication to help in the spread of democracy while at the same time attempting to lessen its power when used by radicals and tyrants?

Featured Analysis

Social Media, New Technologies and the Middle East

by Russell A. Bermanvia Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It is a global story, a new industrial revolution. The spread of the internet and the proliferation of social media have led to dramatic changes with salutary results: greater access to more diverse information, gateways to goods and services that have transformed the retail experience, and opportunities to engage and network with expanded communities, while still staying in touch with friends and family, all thanks to the blessings of these new technologies.

Featured Analysis

Does Egypt Still Matter?

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

For a man who has challenged almost all conventional wisdom in U.S. foreign policy, President Trump’s first phone call to his Egyptian counterpart after taking office could have been copied from any of his predecessors since the late 70’s. Stressing the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, he affirmed his commitment to deepening a relationship “which has helped both countries overcome challenges in the region for decades.”

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And Egypt: An Uneasy Relationship

by Bernard Haykelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Any observer of the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the last few months will have noticed considerable tensions.  This is unexpected since Riyadh had strongly backed President Sisi’s government after the 2013 military coup, offering tens of billions of dollars in aid and fuel supplies, and Cairo in return had pledged its full diplomatic, political and military support for the kingdom. 

Mousque of Al-aqsa in Old Town - Jerusalem, Israel
Featured Analysis

Egypt’s Role In The Middle East: The View From Jerusalem

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Monday, March 13, 2017

During the past sixty years, Israel’s relationship with Egypt completed a full cycle. In the late 1950’s in the aftermath of two wars with Egypt and Gamal Abdel Nasser leading the revolutionary pan Arab camp, it was Israel’s most formidable and implacable Arab enemy. Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, saw no hope of breaking the wall of Arab hostility led by Egypt and decided to leap frog over it by formulating and implementing a policy known as “the alliance with the periphery.” 

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.