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On V's Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2011

(The rest of "On V's Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2011" continues in:

- "Of Fortune Tellers and Political Pundits: Predictions are Tough"

- "Things Are Getting Better...Still"

- "The Biggest Problem with American Foreign Policy" 

- "Revolutions are Violent"

- "War at its Worst: For Whom the Bell Tolls"

        - "Twitter? I Just Met Her: The New Journalism and the Arab Spring")


“Above all, the Green Revolution shows us that Islam is still fighting for its soul and future. Secularism, fundamental Islam, the role of Islam in society, Westernism, the Great Satans (Great Britain and America)--every issue confronting Islamic culture today was present in Iran's almost revolution. The same motivation that pushes Al Qaeda to fight the West pushed Ayatollah Khameini to prematurely declare the election over.”

- On Violence, January, 2010

Today, as in 2010 and 2011, On Violence launches its “Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2011” to look back at the last year and say, “What event inspired the most ideas?”

From the execution of Obama bin Laden to the death of Kim Jong-il to the final pull out of Iraq, this year had a host of qualified events. We had so many worthy candidates for event of the year that Eric and I had to implement an emergency series, “On Violence’s Most Intriguing Event of the Last Six Months”, in July to write about the year’s second most thought provoking event, the Greg Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea fiasco.

However, all those events pale in comparison to the one event that never left the news: the Arab Spring, our most thought provoking event of 2011.

Unlike previous editions that tended to buck the larger trends, no one doubts that the Arab Spring is also the most important event of 2011. (For new readers, we define our “Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of the Year” as roughly, “What do we have the most to talk about? What one event launched the most ideas into our heads?” This event doesn’t have to be the most important event, it just has to launch a discussion.) Is the Arab spring the most important military/foreign affairs/art event of 2011? Probably. Is it also the most interesting? Yes.

Which is partly why we opened this article with a quote from our blog from two years ago, regarding our most thought provoking event of the year of 2009, the failed Iranian Green Revolution. Replace green with jasmine, and Iran with Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and a host of other countries, and the above paragraph could describe the Arab Spring. Borrowing another sentiment from our 2009 summary, though Michael C deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and remains deeply fascinated by both, neither war (or ended war) intrigues us as much as multiple revolutions spanning the globe.

To be honest, we didn’t initially expect the Arab Spring to make the cut. An early outline had the title, “On V’s Most Thought Provoking Event of the Year: Not that interesting.” As we mulled it over, though, we realized the Arab Spring combines several of our themes into one neat little package:

- Predictions are tough.

- The world is getting better, but that process isn’t linear or easy.

- We--On Violence--don’t like writing about headline news. The Arab Spring shows why.

The Arab Spring also hit on some ideas we’ve wanted to cover more, like:

- Revolutions are violent.

- America’s foreign policy favors short term gains over long terms goals.

And that’s not even mentioning the irregular/political war that was Libya, what the Arab Spring means for counter-insurgency, the continuing drama in Syria, and the fact that oil rich countries generally survived and oil poor countries generally collapsed. The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa surprised almost everyone, defied most explanations, and continues to play out in unexpected ways. In other words, it is our most thought provoking event of the year.

two comments

Y’all might be interested in this one. It’s from a buddy of mine from Monterey.


Also, take it a step higher. The Muslim AND Arab world is in the latter stages of their political, economic, social, and religious reformation. They are seeking self-reliance, self-determination, self-actualization, self-fill in the blank. They have to find their own way.

It’s a great post on SWJ. Our article on America’s foreign policy will semi-touch on the Iran issue that he mentions.

And your point about Muslim and Arab worlds reaching for self-fill in the blank is a great point. We don’t have a post on that specifically, but revolutions and instability accompany all transformation from Europe to Asia to South America. We are now seeing it in North Africa, and may see it soon in the rest of Africa.