Several Thoughts on the Arab Revolution

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1) It's not yet a revolution. It might become one, but one of the reasons I haven't blogged much about this (apart from the snow-related loss of power) is that I have no idea which way this is going to go. I don't believe the Mubarak regime is going to give up power as easily as the Tunisians, for what it's worth. Although that can change very quickly.

2) So much for stability. A few years ago, I profiled Brent Scowcroft, the king of foreign policy realism, and he recounted for me a conversation he had with his erstwhile protege, Condi Rice:

"She says we're going to democratize Iraq, and I said, 'Condi, you're not going to democratize Iraq,' and she said, 'You know, you're just stuck in the old days,' and she comes back to this thing that we've tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth," he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, "But we've had fifty years of peace."

Fifty years of peace has meant propping up dictators for fifty years.

3) Is that such a bad thing? Friends of mine like Reuel Gerecht believe that Arabs, given their druthers, might choose Islamist governments, and that would be okay, because it's part of a long-term process of gradual modernization. I'm not so sure. I support democratization, but the democratization we saw in Gaza (courtesy of, among others, Condi Rice) doesn't seem particularly worth it.
 
4) This doesn't really have much to do with the liberation of Iraq. Yes, it was a liberation, and no, it hasn't inspired very much in the Arab world. Sorry.

5) Once again, these uprisings are offering proof that Israel isn't the central Arab preoccupation. WikiLeaks showed us that Iran is the obsession of Arab leaders, and these mass demonstrations are showing us that the faults of Arab leaders are the actual obsession of Arab people. Don't think, however, that the next Egyptian government -- if that's where we're heading -- is going to be friendly to Israel. And this is true even if it is not a Muslim Brotherhood government.

UPDATE: More, less ambivalent thoughts, here.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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