Seth Jones discusses the Arab Spring and his recent Foreign Affairs article.
The Arab uprisings of 2011, once a great source of hope for democracy enthusiasts, have given way to sectarian clashes and political instability. The Middle East has not yet shed its authoritarian yoke, and the United States needs a policy that reflects that reality.
These two books tell the story of the United States’ struggle against terrorism from 9/11 to the death of Osama bin Laden, concentrating on the intelligence and police operations that led to the capture or killing of a collection of true believers and naive fantasists who sought to kill as many Westerners as possible.
Iran is holding terrorist leaders as an act of defense -- so long as it has them, al Qaeda will likely refrain from attacking Iran. But the strategy also has a defensive component -- if the United States or Israel bombed the country, it could employ al Qaeda in responding.
The United States has placed outsized importance on disabling the Haqqani network along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Yet in focusing on this group -- which enjoys little popular support in Afghanistan -- the United States is neglecting the more important (and difficult) task of dealing with the Taliban sanctuary deep in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province.
Current efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are based on a misunderstanding of the country's culture and social structure. As three new books show, defeating the Taliban will require local, bottom-up efforts -- beginning with a deep understanding of tribal and subtribal politics.
These two books are distinct but complementary accounts of the months following the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the optimists saw their hopes for a new democracy dashed by violence and chaos.
Two new books offer insightful analyses of how to succeed in Afghanistan. But the sheer difficulty of the task points to the need for an alternative strategy -- one that defends U.S. interests without trying to rebuild a shattered country.