Iran, Syria and Egypt

The U.S. is asking, without success, for the Iranian, Syrian, Russian and Chinese governments to do things that, from their perspective, are not in their interests. It is not really a big surprise that Iran is not giving up their weapons because the U.S. wants them to or that Moscow and Beijing are less anxious than the U.S. to call for a leader to resign because he has used excessive force on the citizens of his own country. The U.S., on the other hand, is asking Egypt to do something that is neither against their interests nor a very big reques


Revolution and Democracy in Egypt

History has shown both that revolutions are rare and not the inevitable outcome of large, even massive street demonstrations, and that when most authoritarian regimes are overthrown, they are not replaced by democracies. Moreover, while some democracies, notably those in countries of Eastern Europe like Poland or the Czech Republic as well as the Baltic states arise out of events that could be described as revolutions, most democracies take a very long time to evolve. The American democratic revolution, for example, lasted roughly two centuries beginning with the American Revolution in 1776 which brought independence, followed a few years later by the creation and approval of the U.S. Constitution, and ending when apartheid in the American south was brought to an end with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965. Some other democracies, Germany and Japan, for example, grew out of military defeat, occupation and enormous commitment of resources from other democratic countries.

Why Obama's Foreign Policy Looks So Much Like Bush's

Thanks to the U.S. constitution and political realities, mercifully we will never know what a third Bush term would have looked like.  But judging from the last year of the Bush administration, it’s possible to have some sense of what Bush would have done if he had stayed in office beyond January 2009.  It’s not hard to imagine that Bush would have committed to gradual rather than complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and an increased effort — Bush might have used the term “surge” — in Afghanistan.  A Bush-Medvedev summit in 2009 might well have resulted in a moderate commitment to reducing nuclear weapons; words, but no action, on democracy and the superiority of the American system to the Russian one; and an agreement to disagree about issues such as NATO expansion and Georgia.

Time for Obama to Start Spending Political Capital

Political capital is not, however, like money, it cannot be saved up interminably while its owner waits for the right moment to spend it. Political capital has a shelf life, and often not a very long one. If it is not used relatively quickly, it dissipates and becomes useless to its owner. This is the moment in which Obama, who has spent the first few months of his presidency diligently accumulating political capital, now finds himself. The next few months will be a key time for Obama. If Obama does not spend this political capital during the next months, it will likely be gone by the New Year anyway.