Mark LeVine: It's Time for Obama to Say Kefaya!





[Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).]

The democracy protests that swept Tunisian President Zine el Abedine Ben Ali from power are going viral, but sadly President Obama and other Western leaders seem immune.

Indeed, it is quite likely that the president and his colleagues in Europe are as frightened of the potential explosion of people power across the Middle East and North Africa as are the sclerotic autocratic leaders of the region against whom the protests are being directed.

The question is, why?

Why would Obama, who worked so hard to reach out to the Muslim world with his famous 2009 speech in Cairo, be standing back quietly while young people across the region finally take their fate into their own hands and push for real democracy?

Shouldn't the president of the United States be out in front, supporting non-violent democratic change across the world's most volatile region?...

Tonight in his State of the Union address the world will learn whether President Obama has any of his once celebrated vision, courage and audacity left in him, or if he's been so thoroughly beaten down by the forces that actually run Washington that he can barely muster support for the young people around the Arab world who are increasingly saying "Kefaya", Enough!, to their governments, and the larger global system that has kept them in power for so long.

It's probably too much to ask the President to say "Kefaya" to the forces that have so circumscribed his once progressive vision.


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