President Barack Obama has a unique relationship with the Middle East. The excitement was palpable in June 2009 when he arrived in Cairo to mend tensions. His “A New Beginning” speech extolled civilization’s debt to Islam, quoted from the Quran, and spoke of his own Muslim middle name, Hussein. Yet, throughout the region, disillusion with Obama has been spreading. In Egypt, 42 percent had confidence in Obama’s leadership in a 2009 Pew Global Attitudes poll; in 2012, the figure was down 13 percentage points.
This issue of the Cairo Review explores Obama’s world—from U.S. policies in the Middle East to everyday struggles in Middle America. Former State Department official Reza Marashi examines the festering conflict between the U.S. and Iran and pens a Memo to the President on how Obama can avoid war. In “Lost in the Middle East,” Princeton University Associate Professor Amaney A. Jamal questions Washington’s failure to address the grievances of ordinary citizens in the region. Brooklyn College Professor Moustafa Bayoumi reports on a darker side of Obama’s America: the rise of Islamophobia. We also present essays on what the latest Batman movie tells us about violence in America, the outlook for Obamacare, and how a new generation is turning the American tradition of political cartooning on its head. “New Orleans, Marching On,” writer Anne Gisleson’s paean to her native city, is an elegant testimony of the American spirit.
I first encountered Ryan Crocker in Beirut in 1983, his shirt spattered with blood as he searched the rubble of the bombed U.S. embassy for missing colleagues. His diplomatic career has taken him from one impossible challenge to the next, most recently being called out of retirement by President Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. We’re honored that Ambassador Crocker has joined us for The Cairo Review Interview. Few Americans have worked as assiduously and honorably toward a better Middle East.