Reading Culture, Identity and Space in US Foreign Policy

by Waleed Hazbun
published in MER236

Inundated by “theories” about the putative role of Islamic and Arab culture in shaping Middle East politics, one might ask: what role does American culture play in US foreign policy? In recent years, some of the most innovative contributions to the study of US relations with the Middle East have come from investigations into the role of culture, identity and space.

Not All Roads Lead to Washington

by Yahya Sadowski
published in MER249

In the summer of 2008, there was an epidemic of diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East. The new diplomacy represented a striking break with the pattern of statesmanship that has prevailed in the region for the last decade: It always involved an ally of the United States talking to an enemy of America without Washington’s approval or participation.

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"The Israel Lobby" in Perspective

by Mitchell Plitnick , Chris Toensing
published in MER243

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s 82-page paper “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” has entered the canon of contemporary political culture in the United States. So much, positive and negative, has been written about the March 2006 essay that the phrase “the Mearsheimer-Walt argument” is now shorthand for the idea that pro-Israel advocates exert a heavy—and malign—influence upon the formulation of US Middle East policy. To veteran students of Middle East affairs, this idea is hardly new, of course.

From the Editors

published in MER243

Both political parties in Washington seem determined not to end the US occupation of Iraq until they are convinced the other party will get blamed for the consequences. It is charmless political theater and grotesque public policy. The occupation cannot end too soon.

Afghan Wonderland

by Christian Parenti
published in MER239

The international occupation of Afghanistan is in bad shape. US casualties are up -- at times the ratio of killed and wounded to troops deployed is equal to that in Iraq, though of course the total numbers are not. Taliban attacks are intensifying, and now include frequent suicide bombings. Kidnappings are becoming more common. NGOs are being attacked and pulling out. Over 200 schools have been burned down and closed. Each year, fewer roads are safe to travel. The country’s economy lies in ruins and its government is a largely dysfunctional kleptocracy. A new round of aid is coming -- at a February 2006 donors’ conference in London, $10.5 billion was pledged through 2011 -- but the long-term prognosis looks bad.

The Politics of Refugee Advocacy and Humanitarian Assistance

by Kathryn Libal , Scott Harding
published in MER244

Despite advance warnings of entrenched conflict and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, in 2003 the Bush administration embarked on a regime-changing war in Iraq with little consideration of the human costs. The Iraq war has created a flow of forced migrants, both within and across national borders, numbering around four million people, or approximately 15 percent of Iraq’s population. This ongoing forced migration dwarfs original expectations among humanitarian organizations and is considered the largest forced migration in the region since the Palestinian diaspora of 1948.

From the Editor

published in MER246

From December 2006 through the late summer of 2007, four foreign policy commentators reached for the same 1980s movie title, Back to the Future, to describe the peregrinations of US Middle East policy in the oft-proclaimed twilight of the neo-conservative moment. There was confusion, however, as to what past was being summoned to replace the present.

Unsettling the Categories of Displacement

by Julie Peteet
published in MER244

The Middle East has long had the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s major producers of refugees. By the beginning of 2007, the Middle East was generating 5,931,000 refugees out of a world total of 13,948,800. Over the past century, not just conflict but development projects, environmental disasters and state-mandated settlement of nomads have driven people from their homes. [1]