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International Affairs

The unrest and violence that has erupted in more than a dozen countries across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia has refocused Americans’ attention on two different but not disconnected historical movements in the Muslim world. The first is the campaign of terror launched by Osama bin Laden and an alliance of militant Islamic warriors who have sought to expel the West from Muslim lands, oust pro-Western dictators and unify those lands as a single Islamic nation for over 15 years. This movement, initially supported by America and its allies when it was used to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in the 1980s, metastasized into the Al Qaeda terror groups that eventually attacked the United States on 9/11. The toll in American blood and treasure has been over 10,000 lives and trillions of dollars in damages and the cost of U.S. led wars.

This year will long be remembered and analyzed by scholars and students for the so-called “Arab Spring” sweeping the Arab world from North Africa across to the Arabian Peninsula. Simmering tensions in a dozen countries boiled over in protests and revolts toppling several regimes – Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – and pushing others to the brink. In the Persian Gulf Iran is playing an outsized role, threatening the neighborhood: sponsoring terrorism, building nuclear weapons, and dominating the scene in Iraq as America is shown the door by Baghdad. Meanwhile, 44 years of conflict and occupation in Israel-Palestine shows no signs of a solution. Indeed the threat of an American veto to a Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations illuminates Washington’s dilemma of balancing interests versus America’s principles.

She Opened Our Window to the World

April 16, 2011

WOW is right! The 12th Window on the World, Tennessee Tech’s annual global awareness festival that celebrates, at once, international unity and diversity was center stage on campus this weekend. The Roaden University Center, festooned with scores of country flags that symbolize the origins of many Tech students and faculty, was filled with hundreds of people working and thousands of people visiting the music and dance performances, art displays, shopping kiosks, food courts, children’s activities, and country table displays. The atmosphere, as always, was electric as people moved about to take it all in – to enjoy it all and to learn something about every corner of the world.

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Foreign Policy and War On The Fly

March 26, 2011

The tide of revolt that has swept the Arab World in the last two months has been stunning in scope, intensity and importance. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf autocratic regimes have been shaken and some have fallen in an historic reformation of how Arab countries will manage their affairs. This transformation, dubbed an “Arab Spring,” has also stunned foreign policy making institutions in the United States as America’s values and interests are increasingly at odds with each other.

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At the Tipping Point in the Arab World

January 29, 2011

The throngs of Egyptians who have taken to the streets in the Arab world’s most populous country are shaking the foundations of regimes across North Africa and the Middle East with scant hope America will emerge from this new crisis with a winning hand, much less breaking even.

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Images of Humanity and a Night of Triumph

January 15, 2011

The images are from another place and time, grainy, black and white photos among an archive of American experiences from “back in the day” and they appear in my mind when I think about the word “polio.” One of these ancient photos is of a warehouse-sized room filled with row after row of capsules each containing a person, like some strange 1950s era sci-fi movie. Dozens of nurses in old-style uniforms and caps are buzzing around the tubes. The capsules have viewing windows, access ports, gauges and dials and at one end a pressurized seal where each patient’s head extends outside the tube. The scores of tubes in the image are iron-lungs, the much feared last resort treatment for the thousands and thousands of Americans afflicted with polio who, because of paralysis, were unable to breath on their own. Their lives were extended through the pumps that provided negative air pressure, taking over the function of their ineffective diaphragms.

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America’s Global Indifference and Looming Challenges

January 8, 2011

Indifference to global developments is not a new phenomenon in America’s public life. In recounting the story of the Council on Foreign Relations, Colorado College political scientist David Hendrickson, writing in “Foreign Affairs,” noted the relative ignorance among officials and the public about the world. Of the former he said the U.S. State Department, in the wake of World War I, lacked the “detailed knowledge of European conditions that would be required for redrawing, as fairly as could be done, the map of the world.” Of the citizenry of the day, he said “American domestic opinion was returning with a vengeance, to the insular habits that had long characterized it,” citing as evidence the “Philadelphia Record’s” comment in 1928 that, “The American people don’t give a hoot in a rainbarrel who controls north China.”

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SUSRIS Project Profiled

August 10, 2010

One of our editorial projects, the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, that we have produced since 2003 was profiled today by “American Bedu” a blog authored by former U.S. diplomat Carol Fleming.

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Political Pandering Column Postscript

August 8, 2010

This week I wrote about politicians’ pandering to voters over possible fears of Islam — opposing mosques and Islamic community centers in Tennessee and New York City. It is a hot topic and the controversies continue even though the primary elections talked about in the column are over. Today on CNN’s show “Fareed Zakaria: GPS” […]

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On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

June 26, 2010

Today we posted “Not on the Cover of the Rolling Stone” among the columns here. For those of a different generation who might not have heard the Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show tune you should take a look and listen.

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