Reading List – 21st October 2019

Maha Yahya, Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, looks at the development of democracy in the middle east since the Arab Spring. She highlights that, with the exception of Tunisia, promises of democratic development have stalled and the autocrat’s bargain – whereby citizens accept a lack of democracy in return for better jobs and living standards – is also failing to deliver. However she suggests that the spirit of protest has been awakened in many of the countries of the region and has brought tangible benefits.

Speaking at a Chatham House event yesterday, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, spoke positively of the changes in his country as regards women and young people dismissing claims that they are cosmetic changes. However he failed to respond to a question asking whether moves would be made towards democracy.


Paul Haenle and Sam Bresnick of the Carnegie Endowment argue that although President Trump has made strong noises against China, he has weakened the USA in international terms by abandoning allies in the Pacific and withdrawing his country from key trade partnerships. These, moves, together with the Belt and Road Initiative, have given China the upper hand to assert its dominance. 


Stephen M Walt – American professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government – suggests that the US needs to fundamentally change its foreign policy to adopt a strategy of off-shore balancing. 

With no traditional threats to the country (although Professor Walt acknowledges that cyber attacks are a different matter), the USA should slowly begin to focus its efforts on taking on its peer-competitor China through building alliances and partnerships with regional allies. In order to do this, he says the USA should no longer be the world’s policeman and should leave European EU and NATO allies to handle Russia and should not be involved in the Middle East. This would mean adopting a pro-EU stance, remaining part of the JCPOA and not favouring one Middle Eastern country over any other. He suggests that the USA should not be involved in nation-building but use its own liberal values to inspire others.


Former US Deputy Secretary of State William J Burns bemoans the current track of American diplomacy under President Trump and says that the country will become weaker on the international stage as a result. He likens the current path to the McCarthy era.