Explaining the Western Response to the Arab Spring


This article examines the initial Western response to the Arab Spring. Traditional interests – oil, counterterrorism, containing Iran, and the security of Israel – offer only a limited explanation. Domestic politics and a humanitarian agenda explain some variation, but they too are insufficient. A number of leaders appeared to believe change would happen no matter what, so it was often better to embrace it than fight it. Others desired to showcase a new model, where the United States would not necessarily lead. Western powers also recognized the limits of their power and desired to maintain alliances with conservative countries like Saudi Arabia.

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