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Report: Why the Arab Spring Failed

The Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs has issued a report by Jonathan W. Pidluzny, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of government at Morehead State University.  Dr. Pidluzny has recently held academic fellowships with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Jack Miller Center.

The Arab Spring began in 2011 during the Obama administration and while Hillary Clinton was U.S. Secretary of State. This report by the Rubin Center provides an understanding of why it has failed. It failed not for the reasons you may think.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT.


WHY THE ARAB SPRING FAILED: THE CULTURAL ROOTS OF THE ARAB PREDICAMENT, A REVIEW ESSAY OF TAREK HEGGY’S THE ARAB COCOON AND THE ARAB MIND BOUND

By Jonathan W. Pidluzny

why the arab spring failedEvery year, life in the Arab Middle East gets worse for its inhabitants.  Tarek Heggy’s books The Arab Cocoon and The Arab Mind Bound (2011) argue that cultural factors are to blame.  With all eyes focused on the Arab Spring, his books did not receive the attention they deserved on publication.  They are worth revisiting today, because they help to explain why the Arab Spring failed.  Heggy argues that a “Bedouin model” of Islam spread wildly in recent decades with ruinous consequences for the region’s educational system and its politics.  This essay traces Heggy’s argument and explains why his cultural critique is also an argument against democratizing reforms.

The Arab Spring and the events that have followed will mark a turning point of lasting historical significance for the Arab world, though not the one Western observers envisioned when popular unrest first burst to the surface in 2011.  With the hopes roused by the “Arab Spring” extinguished (or worse) in virtually every country affected by its revolutions, the question Tarek Heggy took up in two books published as protestors first took to the streets is more urgent than ever.  The Arab Cocoon (2010)[1] and The Arab Mind Bound (2011)[2] boldly ask why the Arab world has proven so resistant to progress in all its forms. The books did not receive the attention they deserved when they were first published, probably because they offered a grim assessment of the Arab world’s predicament at a time the world was giddy with hope, naively confident the Middle East was finally on the cusp of meaningful, ground-up, democratic reform.

Heggy, a prominent advocate of political reform in Egypt and a successful oil-industry executive, published the first book before Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in a Tunisian fruit market set the region ablaze, and the second, in early 2011, just as the uprisings were beginning to gain momentum in Egypt.  As a result, the author could only comment on the Arab Spring in passing, in an optimistic note appended to the second book just prior to its publication.  “I am certain,” he wrote, “that the revolutions of the youth of the middle class… will bring about the required change within the structure of the Muslim mind, Muslim culture and Islamic religious teaching.”[3]  Although Heggy’s hopes have been disappointed, his analysis of the political and cultural milieu in which the revolutions unfolded is all the more pertinent in light of the devastation it has wrought.  In fact, his analysis helps to explain the failure of the Arab Spring, even though he did not, himself, predict it would fail. The account Heggy puts forth–that it is Arab culture, broadly construed, that is holding the region back–helps to explain why steps toward openness and democracy can have illiberal and destabilizing consequences.

The problems Heggy catalogues are well known.  According to virtually every metric, the Arab world’s economic and political systems perform appallingly. The region’s governments are among the most corrupt on the planet; untouched by the third wave of democracy, the Arab world cannot, to this day, claim a single functioning liberal democracy; respect for the rights of women and minorities–never a shining example for the world–has deteriorated since the Arab Spring catapulted Islamist parties to power; abject poverty remains widespread, and opportunity for economic advancement nonexistent for huge proportions of unusually young populations; and violent ideologies claiming a basis in Islam’s sacred texts inspire new adherents every day, who are tearing the region apart.  The region fares no better in literary and intellectual pursuits.  In spite of the Arab world’s impressive achievements in the sciences and the arts during its golden age, the region makes very few cultural or scientific contributions of global importance today.[4]

Efforts to explain the region’s seemingly intractable resistance to progress and development, many of which blame America, the West, and Israel for the Mideast’s problems, have yielded an immense literature. Heggy’s answer sets his books apart.  He dispenses with the familiar tropes:  No, U.S. foreign policy and the existence of Israel are not the primary reasons for Mideast malaise.  Nor does he blame European colonialism, the global capitalist system, or the league of autocratic rulers who clung (and in places, continue to cling) to power thanks to oil revenues or outside military aid.  Instead, Heggy draws on his cosmopolitan background, long experience in the region as a businessman, and discussions with public intellectuals of every persuasion to offer a profound critique of the Arab mind.

Read more.

RELATED ARTICLE: White House Legitimizes Iran’s War Against Israel

One-Third of Obamacare Co-Ops Shut Down by Charles Hughes

Hundreds of thousands people will lose their insurance plans as a raft of health insurance cooperatives (CO-OPs) created by the Affordable Care Act will cease operations.

Just last week, CO-OPs in Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee and Kentucky announced that they would be winding down operations due to lower than expected enrollment and solvency concerns (although the one in Colorado issuing the state over the shutdown order). They join four other CO-OPs that have announced that they would be closing their doors.

In total, only 15 out of the 23 CO-OPs created by the law remain. These closures reveal how ill-advised this aspect of the ACA was both in terms of lost money and the turmoil for the people who enrolled in them. The eight that have failed have received almost $1 billion in loans, and overall CO-OPs received loans totaling $2.4 billion that might never get paid back.

In addition, roughly 400,000 people will lose their plans.

Proponents of the CO-OPs believed that they would be able to offer lower premiums than for-profit insurers because they did not have the same profit motive, but even non-profit insurers cannot operate at a financial loss indefinitely.

When they were created, these CO-OPs had no customers, no experience in setting premiums, no networks and limited capital. The government tried to subsidize the early period of uncertainty by disbursing loans to help with startup and solvency issues, and money from other provisions like risk corridors would dampen losses in the initial years.

Lower than expected payments from the risk corridors have exacerbated the issues facing some of these CO-OPs, who were counting on substantial payments to stay afloat. But this is hardly the only factor contributing to their struggles, some of them the product of other government policies like delaying employer mandate penalties and giving states the option to allow transitional policies through 2017.

Some of these later developments could not have been anticipated, but many analysts, including Cato scholars, were skeptical about the prospects of CO-OPs from the beginning.  Even some ACA supporters recognized the flaws inherent in the CO-OP design: Paul Krugman derided them as a “sham” and in a 2009 interview Professor Timothy Jost said could not see how a CO-OP “does anything to control costs.”

There have been multiple warning signs that many CO-OPs were in trouble.  Earlier this year The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent letters to 11 CO-OPs placing them on “enhanced oversight” due to financial concerns, and a 2014 report from the HHS Office of Inspector General found that “most of the 23 CO-OPs we reviewed had not met their initial program enrollment and profitability projections,” and that the government “had not established guidance or criteria to assess whether a CO-OP was viable or sustainable.”

These CO-OPs were not a good idea at inception and were always going to face many obstacles to success.  Multiple changes to the law since they were established have exacerbated these problems, and already struggling CO-OPs have folded. Competition is indeed vital in health insurance markets, but the CO-OPs were a bad way to try to foster this competition.

With these closures, billions of taxpayer dollars could be lost and hundreds of thousands of people will discover that the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise does not apply to them.

This post first appeared at Cato.org.

“Contempt for the Screening Process” and 91 Other Reasons TSA Thinks You’re a Terrorist by Daniel Bier

It’s true that TSA’s physical screeners are embarrassingly bad at their jobs, failing to notice 95% of threats in tests by Homeland Security.

But always never fear! TSA also has Behavior Detection Officers. These super agents can spot terrorists just by looking at them. Now, thanks to a leaked TSA checklist (and scorecard) of suspicious behaviors, you can too!

The document shows 92 different behaviors that can flag you as suspicious — such as being too happy (or too sad); having “sweaty palms” or “rubbing hands”; “arriving late” and “body odor”; “gazing down” or “open staring eyes” — to which an arbitrary number of “points” are attached.

If you score six or more points, you win a trip to enhanced screening and an interrogation by police. But you can get points deducted for being old (minus 1 point for women over 55 or men over 65) or married and old (minus 2 for a couple over 55).

Of course, the Intercept reports, the program has

attracted controversy for the lack of science supporting it. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.”

After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

The suspicious behavior checklist also includes “having a cold penetrating stare” and “expressing contempt for the screening process.” After reading this, I’m not sure it’ll be any easier for me to get through TSA without them.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of TSA officer Robert Howard signals an airline passenger forward at a security check-point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Jan. 4. (AP Photo)

The Government Cannot And Will Not Solve Poverty

Jesus Christ stated that the poor you will always have amongst you.  However, he did not say that the problem of being poor could not be solved.  In fact, again He said “the poor you will always have amongst you.”   I interpret that to mean that despite viable solutions to poverty, people, especially progressive government officials eventually increase poverty, not decrease it.  America is still reeling from the awful effects of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”  After $20 Trillion and counting spent to fight poverty with tax-payers dollars has resulted in a higher poverty rate now than in the 1960s.

I find it ironic when those who have never run a business, vie for political office and declare they will provide jobs.  I guess I will give Donald Trump a pass after saying “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created” because he has provided both jobs and business opportunities for many thousands of people.  But government has never, ever created jobs without extracting monies from the wealth producing economy to pay for government jobs.  Many of which are wasteful duplications and don’t get me started on economy draining burdensome departments like the IRS, Department of Education, the Just us uh Justice Department and everyone’s favorite, the EPA all of which have the problems they were supposed to address, much worse.

Unfortunately, that practice has run most of America’s once gleaming major cities into the ground politically, morally, economically and economically.  Under liberal/progressive policies have been immorally manipulated to barely function under the false premise that American style inequality and unfairness entitles certain people to your hard earned money.  How long do you think that “We the People” can afford to allow ourselves to be seduced by the evil lies of the progressive game of lying to us and draining us of our earnings, while making it more difficult for the next generation to reach their vision of the American dream?

Because of the non-stop onslaught of lies, government school indoctrination, trillions of dollars of annual wasteful spending, then the many international trade agreements that always grant advantages to competitor nations America is in a heap of hurt.  Right now, our republic is on the brink of utter collapse.  Despite the obvious situation, government officials continue to methodically shrink the U.S. economy.  Of course, as a result there are more and more so-called dependents every single year.  The thirty plus million illegal immigrants, who President Obama, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and California governor Jerry Brown want taxpayers to pay for everything the illegals desire and demand.  So now, some Americans are asking why should I bust my hump just to have my earnings taken away and given to illegal immigrant moochers?

The Congressional Budget Office recently warned that if congress does not soon reign in over spending, over taxation and I’ll throw in over regulations, our prosperous way of life will be negatively altered permanently in less than ten years.  By now it would seem that America would have learned from the five-plus decades of offensive progressive blunders foisted upon Detroit.  That once great city was per capita the wealthiest city in the world in 1962.  In November of that year progressive democrat Cavanaugh was elected as mayor.  The changes in policies he enacted were a dramatic departure from the previous republican administrations.  Almost immediately, there was a piling on of regulations and layers of taxes that set that city on a downward spiral she has yet to recover from.

Right now the percentage of working Americans is declining while the dependent class is rapidly multiplying.  What can be aptly described as the American welfare state is not shrinking as we are so often told by progressive democrats and rino republicans.  In fact the $1 Trillion a year fighting poverty fighting budget is a planned abysmal failure.  Most politicians, including president Obama know this.  I remember telling people, long before Obama was elected as president that he and many others want to do to America what was done to Detroit.  Unless some major changes are made in the very near future they will reach their goulash goal.

For example, federal and overall welfare spending is going up.  The federal government alone currently funds and operates 126 different welfare or anti-poverty programs.  Federal welfare spending alone totals more than $14,848 for every poor man, woman, and child in this country.  For a typical poor family of three, that amounts to more than $44,500.  Combined with state and local spending, the government spends $20,000  for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.

Yet government economic no growth policies such as draconian environmental regulations with our republic being the most taxed on earth, stymies the ability to create new economic opportunities, while chasing away or killing off existing businesses.  This brutal assault on America’s onetime prosperous economy only serves to threaten our blessed way of life, while whetting the appetites of our enemies both foreign and domestic who seek to overthrow us.

May America soon seek Providential guidance and reclaim the wisdom that made her the onetime envy of the world, before it is much too late.

Obama Apologizes for Drone Strike in Pakistan that Killed U.S. and Italian Hostages

The Wall Street Journal reported the disclosure of a classified drone attack on an Al Qaeda compound in January that mistakenly killed an American hostage, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto.  An Al Qaeda senior operative, Ahmed Farouq who held dual U.S. and Pakistan citizenship was the target of the attack in the controversial CIA covert operation. Dr. Weinstein had been held since 2011.  The WSJ noted the reactions of the President, Italian Premier Renzi and Weinstein’s widow:

The intelligence that underpinned the drone strike turned out to have been tragically incomplete, U.S. officials and lawmakers said Thursday.

The deaths prompted President Barack Obama, who has expanded and redefined the use of U.S. drones, to take full responsibility.

“I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government I offer our deepest apologies to their families,” he said at the White House.

But Mr. Weinstein’s family expressed disillusionment at the U.S. and Pakistani approach to his capture and imprisonment by al Qaeda.

“We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so, and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through,” said Elaine Weinstein, the American hostage’s widow.

Mr. Obama said he spoke with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mr. Weinstein’s family.

Mr. Obama knew about the deaths of the hostages when he met with Mr. Renzi in Washington last Friday but Mr. Obama didn’t tell him, a senior administration official said. Mr. Obama wanted to first develop a plan for sharing the news with the families and the public, the official said.

Mr. Renzi on Thursday expressed “deepest condolences” to the Lo Porto family, as well to the family of Mr. Weinstein. The Italian foreign ministry’s crisis unit immediately contacted Mr. Lo Porto’s family after Mr. Obama’s call.

However, the CIA drone strike that mistakenly killed the two hostages met the rules of engagement:

It was the first known instance in which the Central Intelligence Agency killed hostages in a drone strike. The deaths were a major blow to the spy agency, which conducts the attacks largely behind a cloak of secrecy.

The CIA used rules of engagement that allow drone strikes against suspected militants even if the agency isn’t sure who they are.

The White House has launched a review of the strike to see if changes are needed to the program to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Officials said the program hasn’t been curtailed so far in response.

But Mr. Obama said the initial U.S. assessment of the strike shows it was fully consistent with the guidelines under which his administration conducts such counterterrorism operations.

The CIA launched the strike that killed the hostages under the broad authorities given to the agency to target suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, senior Obama administration officials said. Mr. Obama didn’t directly sign off on the strike beforehand, they said.

JM Berger, author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the name of Islam writes about the demise of three American Al Qaeda operatives:  Adam Gadahn, Jewish convert to Salafist Islam who headed AQ Central Media operation, Samir Kahn who fled North Carolina to join American born AQAP leader, Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen to edit Inspire Magazine  and Omar Hammami, a Daphne, Alabama native, born of a Baptist mother and Syrian Muslim engineer father,  who became an Al Shabaab media star and commander.

The title of Berger’s Politico Magazine article, “Al Qaeda’s American Dream Ends”   is both a chronicle of the trio’s exploits and circumstances about their demise.  As we learned today, Gadahn was killed in a separate drone attack by the CIA covert program. Kahn was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen, as was American-born AQAP leader, Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki.  The two hostages, American development expert Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a US Drone strike under murky circumstances in January 2015 along with AQ leader Ahmed Farouq who had dual US and Pakistani citizenship.  Farouq was allegedly head of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

President Obama apologized and took responsibility as Commander in Chief for the failure of the mission to secure the freedom of the hostages, although the decision was delegated to others in the clandestine drone program. The error is reflective of the lack of intelligence assets, a product of reliance on drones to attack AQ leaders under approved rules of engagement.

Hammami was killed in an ambush by Al Shabaab in 2013 because he became increasingly critical of the leadership. Both Gadahn and Khan, as Berger points out, provided a template for the slick graphic/ video production and social media campaigns run by ISIS. The title of Berger’s piece is somewhat misleading. While Gadahn, Kahn and Hammami were prominent American Jihadis, others, especially in the Muslim émigré communities in the US are taking their place as recruits for ISIS.  For AQ the American Dream may have ended. For ISIS it is only just beginning with few prospects for counterterrorism echelons in our government to create effective de-radicalization programs aimed at preventing these Americans from joining the thongs of tens of thousands from around the Muslim ummah to fight and die for the pure Islamic State. That is because the President refuses to recognize the attraction of Salafist Jihadist Islam at the core of Muslim terrorism.

Today’s revelations illustrate why the U.S. has lost credibility in relying only on drone strikes to degrade AQ leadership rather than coordinating it with verifiable intelligence from assets in the field.

We understand completely the grief and frustration of the Weinstein and Lo Porto families who criticized both the US and Pakistani governments for not securing the freedom of their late loved ones languishing for years as AQ hostages.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Weinstein U.S. Development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto Italian aid worker killed in January 2015 by a U.S. drone attack. Source: AP and Facebook Page.

Witnessing a Failed Presidency

When we elect someone—anyone—to the office of President, it is only natural that we attribute great political skills, intellect, and judgment to that man. We want to believe we have selected someone with the ability to do what must be done in a dangerous and very complex world.

This may explain why Presidents who have presided in times of war are more highly regarded than those that have not. Washington brought the nation into being by patiently pursuing a war with Great Britain, Lincoln saw the Civil War to a successful conclusion, preserving the Union

The last century offered two world wars and several lesser ones, Korea and Vietnam. Voters put Franklin D. Roosevelt in office in 1933 and then kept him there until his death in 1945 just before the conclusion of World War Two. They had no wish to disrupt his conduct of the war with anyone else. It fell to Harry Truman to wrap up World War Two and to pursue the Korean War to repulse communist North Korea’s invasion.

The Vietnam War had its genesis in the JFK years, but it was Lyndon Johnson who committed to it with a massive influx of infantry and massive bombing, neither of which was able to deter the North Vietnamese from uniting the nation. Having lied the nation into the war LBJ concluded at the end of his first term which he had won in a landslide that he should not run again given the vast level of unhappiness with the conflict.

The failure to respond in a strong way to the Iranians who took U.S. diplomats hostage left Jimmy Carter with a single failed term in office. Neither domestically, nor in the area of foreign affairs did he demonstrate strength or much understanding.

After 9/11 George W. Bush used U.S. military strength to send a message to the world in general and al Qaeda in particular. By the end of his second term, a completely unknown young Democrat emerged as the Democratic Party candidate for President by campaigning on a promise to get out of Iraq and offering “hope and change.”

AA - Going from bad to worseBarack Hussein Obama captured the imagination of the voters. He was black and many Americans wanted to demonstrate that an African-American could be elected President. He was relatively young, regarded as eloquent, and seemed to project a cool, self-composed approach throughout his campaign.

The only problem was that he lacked a resume beyond having been a “community organizer.” He had graduated from Harvard Law School, but all of his academic and other public records had been put under seal so they could not be examined. Twice he ran against relatively lackluster, older men who did not possess much charisma, if any.

In his first term, his “stimulus” to lift the economy out of recession was a trillion-dollar failure. By his second term, however, the singular first term “achievement” was the passage of the Affordable Patient Care Act—Obamacare. When finally ready to enroll people it instantly demonstrated technical and policy problems. Obama began to unilaterally make changes to the law even though he lacked the legal power to do so.

The war in Iraq whose conclusion he had ridden to victory in 2008 and 2012 came unraveled and the Syrian civil war in which he had resisted any involvement metastasized into a barbaric Islamic State that seized parts of Iraq and northern Syria.

Halfway through his second term, it was increasingly evident that Obama did not want to fulfill the role of the Presidency to provide leadership in times of foreign and domestic crisis.

On August 28 Gallup reported “Americans are more than twice as likely to say they “strongly disapprove” (39%) of President Barack Obama’s job performance as they are to say they “strongly approve” (17%). The percentage of Americans who strongly disapprove of Obama has increased over time, while the percentage who strongly approve has dropped by almost half.”

His passion for golf became noticeable in ways that went beyond just a bit of vacation time. The time he spent fund raising seemed to be more of a priority than dealing with Congress. Not only did he fail to develop strong political working relations with members of his own party, his churlish talk about the Republican Party began to grate on everyone.

Though no President cares much for the demands of the press, they play an essential role in a democracy. His administration went to extremes to close off access to its members and by striking out at the press in ways that turned it from one that had gone out of its way to support him in the first term to one that actively, if not openly, disliked him in the second.

One characteristic about Obama had become glaringly obvious. He lies all the time. He lies in obvious and casual ways. In politics where one’s word must be one’s bond, this is a lethal personality trait. He dismissed the many scandals of his administration as “phony.”

Given the vast implications of what is occurring in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and elsewhere around the world his response was to interrupt his golf game to give a short speech and then return to the greens. In a recent press conference he said he has “no strategy” to address the threat that ISIS represents.

What Americans have discovered is that they have twice either voted for (or against) someone with fewer skills and even less desire to do the job for which he campaigned. This lazyness combined with his radical liberal politics have finally become obvious even to his former supporters.

His statement that he had no strategy to deal with the threat of the Islamic State and that it was perhaps too soon to expect one to have been formulated has led to the conclusion that he was far less intellectually equipped to be President than many had thought.

Now he must be endured and survived.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image was taken by the AP on May 12, 2014 of President Obama speaking during a press availability in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.