New PPI Paper on US Policy toward the Middle East

New PPI Paper on US Policy toward the Middle East

The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has just released a paper of mine titled “Necessary Risks: How a New U.S. Administration Can–Finally–Give Us the Middle East Policy We Need.” Here”s the intro. Here”s the full paper. This is a bit different than some of the previous things I”ve done which have focused specifically on the political Islam question. In this paper, I try to take a broader look at the assumptions that have driven U.S. policy over the last five decades under both Republicans and Democrats. More often than not, these assumptions have been misguided, sometimes dangerously so. I argue for a “re-orientation” of U.S. policy toward the region. Here are a couple excerpts:

America”s mounting failures in the Middle East are tied not only to ineffective policies but also–and perhaps more importantly–to faulty assumptions about the sources of our difficulties in the region. Anti-American violence and terrorism is fueled by long-standing grievances, both real and perceived. A new Middle East strategy must be premised on a long-term effort to seek out root causes of this anger and, where possible, address them…

While there is a well-deserved consensus that the Bush administration has caused untold damage to our relationship with the Arab and Muslim world, it would be a mistake to think that eight years of Republican rule are an anomaly in an otherwise proud history of successful engagement. The reality is more troubling: American policy has been consistently self-defeating under administrations of both parties for more than five decades…

From the perspective of millions of Arabs and Muslims, the United States is complicit in their repression and in the denial of democratic alternatives. Even the most unfair anti-American paranoia cannot be understood as a product of mere irrational hate. It is important for Americans to understand how valid grievances can snowball into a more general suspicion of all U.S. motives and actions—a suspicion that lends itself to disinformation and conspiracy theorizing. In short, most policy disagreements are substantive and many are legitimate. Even the ones that are not must be addressed on the plane of policy. Perceptions matter because they drive narratives, and narratives drive the way Middle Easterners view the United States.

Read the whole thing.