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Article Alert of February 1, 2012

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Article Alert is a bi-weekly service that helps you select and read the best of America's journal literature on a variety of international relations topics, as well as U.S. domestics issues. It is published every 2 weeks except for August. When no full text is available online Article Alert subscribers can request a copy via email. Copyright legislation prevents us from making articles available to users outside of our area of jurisdiction: Belgium. Also, because of the Smith-Mundt Act, we cannot send articles to users in the United States. The materials on this site, especially those from sources outside the U.S. Government, should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein or as official U.S. policy. If this is the first time you've seen the Article Alert, please let us know if you would like to continue to receive it. Also, feel free to pass it on to any of your colleagues who might be interested in getting it.

Egypt’s Transition to Democracy. AP Images.


Arab Spring: A Partial Awakening. Vincent Cannistraro, Mediterranean Quarterly, Fall 2011, pp. 36-45. “The Arab Spring has affected interests of the Western democracies in the Middle and Near Eastern nations, and the instability will compel changes in American policies for the region. There have been political revisions and in some cases nontraditional modifications in moribund autocracies and dictatorships across the Arab world, reaching to the Arab and Persian Gulfs. The awakening has been enervated by violent responses from more cohesive and profound dictatorships in Syria and Libya, but the “leaderless” model of the awakening can quickly bring together disparate groups working toward a common goal. As the process across the Arab world unfolds, American interests will need to be addressed in ways different from the past. New American wars will not be a promising option. The region’s challenges require a serious and consistent policy toward resolving the core issues of instability, and that includes overcoming domestic opinion and lobbies that work against a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The current demographic prospect is that Israel will lose its Zionist hopes by the forced integration of Palestinians who have lost their own hope of a viable and independent nation.” READ MORE

Requiem for the Baath Party: Struggle for Change and Freedom in Syria. Hafizullah Emadi, Mediterranean Quarterly, Fall 2011, pp. 62-79. “The Baath Party has ruled Syria with an iron fist since the 1960s, curbing civil liberties and imprisoning and executing anyone who dared oppose its rule. A major anti-Baath struggle erupted in the 1980s as Syrians rebelled, trying to topple the repressive regime. The ruling party violently suppressed dissidents and maintained its death grip on power. The 2011 public uprising against the regime was significant in its countrywide scope. Inspired by the fight of people throughout the Arab world, it challenged the authority of the despotic leader. Disenchanted Syrians organized protest rallies, demanding demonstrable change and freedom and an end to decades of repressive rule — a struggle whose successful conclusion depends on the resiliency of oppressed and dispossessed Syrians and the alignment of their cause to the self-serving interests of foreign parties able to lend them support in their struggle against the Baathist rule.” READ MORE

Letter from Damascus: Will Syria Descend into Civil War? Sami Moubayed, Current History, December 2011, pp. 339-344. “Many in the opposition are now saying the regime is stronger than they had imagined.” READ MORE

No friend of democratization: Europe's role in the genesis of the ‘Arab Spring’. Rosemary Hollis, International Affairs, January 2012, pp. 81–94. “The argument advanced in this article is that EU policies helped to trigger the so-called Arab Spring, not by intention but by default. This contention is advanced through an examination of four strands of EU policy towards those countries designated as Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Programme (EMP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), namely: trade and economic development, political reform, the ‘peace process’, and regional security (including migration control). What emerges is that the EU has not just departed from its own normative principles and aspirations for Arab reform in some instances, but that the EU has consistently prioritized European security interests over ‘shared prosperity’ and democracy promotion in the Mediterranean. The net result is a set of structured, institutionalized and securitized relationships which will be difficult to reconfigure and will not help Arab reformers attain their goals.” READ MORE

The 2011 uprisings in the Arab Middle East: political change and geopolitical implications. Katerina Dalacoura, International Affairs, January 2012, pp 63–79. “The Arab uprisings of 2011 are still unfolding, but we can already discern patterns of their effects on the Middle East region. This article offers a brief chronology of events, highlighting their inter-connections but also their very diverse origins, trajectories and outcomes. It discusses the economic and political grievances at the root of the uprisings and assesses the degree to which widespread popular mobilization can be attributed to pre-existing political, labour and civil society activism, and social media. It argues that the uprisings' success in overthrowing incumbent regimes depended on the latter's responses and relationships with the army and security services. The rebellions' inclusiveness or lack thereof was also a crucial factor. The article discusses the prospects of democracy in the Arab world following the 2011 events and finds that they are very mixed: while Tunisia, at one end, is on track to achieve positive political reform, Syria, Yemen and Libya are experiencing profound internal division and conflict. In Bahrain the uprising was repressed. In Egypt, which epitomizes many regional trends, change will be limited but, for that reason, possibly more long-lasting. Islamist movements did not lead the uprisings but will benefit from them politically even though, in the long run, political participation may lead to their decline. Finally, the article sketches the varied and ongoing geopolitical implications of the uprisings for Turkish, Iranian and Israeli interests and policies. It assesses Barack Obama's response to the 2011 events and suggests that, despite their profound significance for the politics of the region, they may not alter the main contours of US foreign policy in the Middle East in a major way.”  READ MORE

Life begins after 25: Demography and the societal timing of the Arab Spring. Richard Cincotta, E-Notes, Foreign Policy Institute, January 2012, var. pages. “Much has been written about the circumstances that led Middle East experts to be blindsided by the successful series of popular demonstrations that kicked off the Arab Spring in December 2010. Writing in Foreign Affairs, political scientist Gregory Gausse recounts how regional specialists, like himself, overestimated the strength and cohesiveness of North Africa’s autocracies, as well as the depth of personal allegiances available to these authoritarians among their military’s highest ranks. Another article in the same journal, by Nassim Taleb and Mark Blyth, draws a strikingly dissimilar conclusion from political science’s most recent failure. They describe North Africa’s dramatic political events as a “black swan”— the unpredictable terminus of a buildup of tensions brought to a head by complexly interacting forces. Little, if any, mention has been made, however, of an article describing the relationship between demography and democracy (“How Democracies Grow Up”) that was printed on the pages of Foreign Policy in March of 2008— more than two-and-a-half years before pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets in Tunisia. In that essay, I describe a simple model driven by population age structure (the distribution of population by age) that can be used to statistically forecast democratization, with reasonable success.” READ MORE

Arab Revolts Upend Old Assumptions.  Augustus Richard Norton, Current History, January 2012, var. pages. “This is a period laden with potential for the growth of freedom, but also heavy with risks and challenges for the United States.” READ MORE


Talking Tough to Pakistan. Stephen D. Krasner, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2012, var. pages. "The United States gives Pakistan billions of dollars in aid each year. Pakistan returns the favor by harboring terrorists, spreading anti-Americanism, and selling nuclear technology abroad. The bribes and the begging aren't working: only threats and the determination to act on them will do the job. Washington must tell Islamabad to start cooperating or lose its aid and face outright isolation." READ MORE

India's ‘Af-Pak’ Conundrum: South Asia In Flux. Harsh V. Pant, Orbis, Winer 2012, pp. 105–117. “The risks to global security from a failure in Afghanistan are great. Abandoning the goal of establishing both a functioning Afghan state and a moderate Pakistan places greater pressure on Indian security. Pakistani intelligence would be emboldened to escalate terrorist attacks against India once it is satisfied that the Taliban would provide it strategic depth in Afghanistan. This would surely force retaliation from India.” READ MORE

Emerging Central Asia Can democracy take root in the “Stans”? Brian Beary, CQ Global Researcher, January 17, 2012, var. pages. “Since emerging from the Soviet Union's orbit 20 years ago, the five nations of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — increasingly are popping up on geo-political radar screens. Given the proximity of the “Stans” to Afghanistan, where NATO continues to wage war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Western powers are ardently wooing Central Asia's leaders in an effort to maintain military bases in the region. There are also rich resources at stake. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan's abundant oil and gas reserves have made them magnets for foreign investors, especially from energy-hungry China, as well as from Europe and the United States. Central Asia also faces a daunting array of domestic challenges, from bloody ethnic clashes and Islamist terrorist attacks to criminal gangs that traffic in drugs and human beings. Meanwhile, some experts wonder if Central Asia, with its repressive, dictatorial leaders and weak but deeply corrupted governments, will soon see its own version of an “Arab Spring” — a popular uprising that will sweep away its aging regimes." READ MORE


Towards a mighty union: how to create a democratic European superpower. Brendan Simms, International Affairs, January 2012, pp.49-62. “The project of European integration is on the verge of complete collapse. Twenty years after Europe’s failure to deal with ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the common foreign and security policy of the European Union has been thrown into disarray by Germany’s refusal to join the coalition to prevent Colonel Qadhafi from carrying out a massacre of his own people in eastern Libya. There is no common European position on Russian ambitions in the Caucasus, Baltic and the Ukraine, on the growth of Chinese power, or on the Iranian nuclear programme. Nearly two years into the euro crisis, ‘Europe’ is no closer to a solution of the sovereign debt problems on its southern periphery. The brief rattling of the bond begging bowl in China was received with the contempt it deserved. A disintegration of the eurozone, or at least a division between the ‘core’ northern members and the rest, is now as likely as not. Worse still, Europe is in the midst of a fundamental crisis of democracy, as the growth of ‘economic governance’ threatens to disenfranchise whole peoples. The Italians and Greeks are now effectively ruled by ‘technocrats’ and ‘experts’ working to instructions from Paris and Berlin. The alternative—demanding that the Germans dig deeper into their pockets to support the euro, without asking the German people and in defiance of the treaties on which the currency union was concluded—is no more satisfactory. READ MORE

Conflicting Role Conceptions? The European Union in Global Politics. Rikard Bengtsson, Ole Elgström, Foreign Policy Analysis, January 2012, pp. 93–108. “This article utilizes role theory for analysing the role(s) of the European Union (EU) in global politics. Specifically addressing the interplay of the EU’s own role perception and the role expectations held by other actors, the article contributes two case studies of the role(s) of the EU in relation to two important but different actor groupings—Eastern Europe including Russia and the ACP countries in the developing world, respectively. The analysis points to the tensions that exist between self-perceptions and the perceptions of the EU’s counterparts in Eastern Europe and the developing world, and how these tensions influences the interaction between the actors.” READ MORE


America’s Outmoded Security Strategy. David B. Kanin and Steven E. Meyer, Current History, January 2012, pp. 19-23.  "The United States will have to get used to others saying ‘no’ when Americans attempt to ‘lead’ them.” READ MORE

The Future of History. Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2012, var. pages. "Stagnating wages and growing inequality will soon threaten the stability of con­temporary liberal democracies and dethrone democratic ideology as it is now understood. What is needed is a new populist ideology that offers a realistic path to healthy middle-class societies and robust democracies." READ MORE

Not Fade Away: The myth of American decline. Robert Kagan, The New Republic, January 11, 2012, var. pages. “Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions. The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers. Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.” READ MORE 

Grading Obama's Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, Jan. 23, 2012, var. pages. “Nine experts rate the president’s performance so far.” READ MORE 


Is the Labor Market Global? Uri Dadush and William Shaw, Current History, January 2012, pp. 9-13. “International wage convergence should not be read as a zero sum game, in which gains for laborers in developing countries are losses for workers in advanced countries.” READ MORE

Retirement and the Social Contract. Ronald W. Dworkin, Policy Review, Feb. 1, 2012, var. pages. “Once unheard of, the goal of early retirement is now ubiquitous across the income range. Indeed, the public employees pension system makes news not just because it risks insolvency, but because people working in the private sector are shocked to discover that public employees have a better chance at early retirement than they do. The numbers confirm the trend. From 1960 to 1990, the percentage of 62-year-old men in the U.S. labor force dropped from 75 to 55; among 58-year-old men from 83 to 72; and among 55-year-old men from 86 to 80. A similar trend has occurred among women. More telling is the change in people’s goals. In 1941, three percent of American men preferred leisure to work; by 1982, that number had shot up to 48 percent. Europeans show a similar trend. True, the American experience may be reversing now because of the economic downturn. People will have to work longer. But this fact makes news precisely because it goes against people’s expectations.”  READ MORE


The Caging of America. Why do we lock up so many people? Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker, January 30, 2012, var. pp. The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. Ours is, bottom to top, a “carceral state,” in the flat verdict of Conrad Black, the former conservative press lord and newly minted reformer, who right now finds himself imprisoned in Florida, thereby adding a new twist to an old joke: A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one. READ MORE

Inside Obama’s World: The President talks to TIME About the Changing Nature of American Power. Fareed Zakaria, Time, January 19, 2012, var. pages. "In an exclusive interview with TIME's Fareed Zakaria, President Obama opens up on Iran, Afghanistan, China and the challenges the U.S. faces in navigating a rapidly changing world." READ MORE READ MORE

The Obama Memos. The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza, January 30, 2012, var. pages. “The making of a post-post-partisan Presidency. Ryan Lizza writes about the making of Obama's post-post-partisan presidency, referencing hundreds of pages of internal White House memos showing Obama grappling with the unpleasant choices of government.” READ MORE

Leading From Behind. Michael Hirsh, The National Journal, January 24, 2012, var. pages. “Romney may become the nominee, but he’s still playing breathless catch-up with the views of GOP voters. As president, would he do the same? [...] What Romney doesn’t have yet—and may not get even if he wins the White House—is a GOP base that believes in him or is even certain quite who he is and what he stands for. Many conservatives suspect that Romney, who was born in one blue state (Michigan) and made his fortune in an even bluer one (Massachusetts), is just not one of them. They see him, somewhat accurately, as a numbers-driven pragmatist who leans right but has changed positions on too many issues to be considered a true believer. On RedState, a popular tea party website, activist Dan McLaughlin wrote an elegant, much-noted essay expressing worries that a Romney nomination would mean “we would all have to make so many compromises to defend him that at the end of the day we may not even recognize ourselves. Romney has, in a career in public office of just four years (plus about eight years’ worth of campaigning), changed his position on just about every major issue you can think of, and his signature accomplishment in office was to be wrong on the largest policy issue [health care] of this campaign.” So if Romney wins the nomination and the presidency, he will have to spend as much time wooing the mainstream of his own party as he will winning over the Democrats.” READ MORE

Preventing Disease: Can lifestyle changes reduce rising health care costs? Nellie Bristol, The CQ Researcher, January 6, 2012 , var. pages. “The U.S. health care system faces spiraling costs from chronic, or noncommunicable, illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and preventable cancers. But public health experts are discovering that just pushing people to change bad habits isn't working. Instead, they are placing more focus on “making the healthy choice the easy choice” through such efforts as reformulating processed foods and making streets safe for walkers and bikers. Some in Congress and the Obama administration made a big push for community-based disease prevention approaches, but concerns over the budget deficit could result in major cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund enacted as part of the 2010 health reform act. However, some say the government is overreaching in its war on obesity, and studies show that some prevention efforts add to health care costs. The fight against preventable disease is not a U.S. problem alone. In poor countries, the biggest threats are the same ones afflicting Americans: lack of exercise, smoking and unhealthy diets.” READ MORE

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