The Challenges of the Middle East

Michael Doran

Hertog Foundation | 2012

In the first half of 2011, an unprecedented wave of revolutionary fervor swept through the Arab world, catching everyone—Middle East rulers, Western statesmen, academic analysts, government intelligence officers, you name it—by surprise. The wave was as consequential as it was unexpected. It toppled Arab leaders who previously seemed impervious to opposition, and it discredited many of the basic concepts that had been guiding the policies of the United States government.

This two-week course will survey the upheaval in the Middle East, asking and seeking to answer a few simple questions: What was the Arab Spring? How has it, together with its aftermath, changed American priorities and strategies? What are the key challenges the United States is likely to face in the coming years?

While the Arab Spring is the starting point of our discussion, it is not our sole focus. We are deeply aware that this revolutionary wave struck while the United States was drawing down from Iraq and Afghanistan, locked in a prolonged contest with Iran, and frustrated by the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. These issues will also command our attention. Our emphasis throughout will be on contemporary security dilemmas, but we will situate these within a broad context. Our approach is interdisciplinary—with readings drawn from policy practitioners, historians, journalists, intelligence officers, and political scientists.

Image: “You Will Pay for What you Done Mubarak” by Ramy Roof | Flickr, CC BY 2.0