The persistence of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East has left Washington unclear about how to promote stability and democracy, according to Walter Russell Mead, an international relations professor at Bard College and Yale University. In a recent lecture hosted by AUC’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research, Mead spelled out how top U.S. interests, like maintaining oil and contributing to a secure Israel, are colliding with a Middle East whose more globally connected citizens are rising economically and demanding political rights. “We’re well aware that we’ve had two presidents who have tried in their own ways to find solutions to the Middle East and haven’t found them,” Mead said.
At a recent panel hosted by the AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy called “Rethinking the Rentier Curse”, Mohamad Al-Ississ, associate dean of GAPP, argued that dependence on foreign-generated income from sources such as oil or aid “changes the fundamental relationship between the governed and the governing.” The slow development of an independent private sector in the Middle East forces citizens to rely on the state for livelihoods, he said. A private sector dominated by privilege, patronage and cronyism, added Adeel Malik, a lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, hinders the emergence of political and economic autonomy among the merchant class that can hold governments accountable.