From the Editor

By Ben Jury

Source: Patrik Nygren/Flickr

Ah, the new year. Whether you’re still regretting your overly priced New Year’s Eve Uber or putting off your New Year’s Resolution another day (or year), the writers and editors at the US-Middle East Youth Network are excited to bring you fresh insight on the latest news from the region. We’ve got a number of exciting projects lined up for this year, including collaborations with other universities across the country.

So much has changed in the last year throughout the region. The multilateral nuclear weapons deal with Iran, the ongoing refugee crisis throughout the Middle East and Europe, the terrorist attacks in Paris, and protests against trash and corruption in Lebanon are just a few of the headline grabbers from 2015. Perhaps It was also a watershed year in the war against the Islamic State. With ISIS’s loss of Ramadi’s center just a few days ago, the tide seems to be turning against the terrorist group, though its far too soon to tell what the future holds for ISIS.

Yet so much has remained the same. Five years on, President Obama’s 2009 call for a ‘New Deal’ between the United States and the Muslims of the world rings hollow. Five years on, the Syrian Civil War rages with no end in sight. Continued drone strikes in Yemen and other countries throughout the region put civilian lives in danger. American troops remain stationed in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and more than a dozen other Middle Eastern countries. All the while, private military contractors continue to operate and profit from continued presence in the region.

What we need now from U.S. policymakers and politicians is the resolution to make tangible steps towards Western military disengagement in the Middle East. Similarly, it’s high time that Western multinationals and governments ditch the military-industrial business model in the region and formulate a new strategy to support our supposed allies without treating them like second-class powers. Rather than using predatory and neo-colonial economic policy under the guise of spreading democracy and peace, Washington needs to reconsider its grand strategy for foreign policy abroad. President Obama has a little over a year left in office to realign American strategy towards more equitable and mutually prosperous relations with Muslim countries. It’s time to make good on these high-minded promises.

Whether or not you believe the United States is an empire in decline, it’s clear that America’s role in global politics is shifting. As we move towards a more multi-polar system with Russia, China, and other nations exerting more and more power within and beyond their regional centers, the old model of imperial politics must fade into obsolescence. Remaining a strong global power may well be Washington’s priority. Brute force and coercion aren’t the only ways of preserving American strength and influence in the world, much less in the region. Sending American boots on the ground will always be an unsustainable, quick fix solution to a perennial problem. MENA nations need to build up their own national security infrastructures to combat terrorism and domestic threats to their sovereignty, all the while remaining transparent. Diplomacy, soft power tactics, and fair-minded coalition building with regional actors will ensure the Iran keeps its promises better than anyone.

At the very least, a country’s foreign policy represents its vision for how the world should be. 2016 is a promising year for change, with a number of important elections (including the U.S. presidential election) and global summits. Yet the chance for meaningful change requires political courage. Change in the world, in the Middle East will require bottom-up organizing and active, meaningful participation by the people affected by policy changes. Chances of that happening on a systematic level are slim. After all, only 10% of New Year’s resolutions are successfully followed through with come December 31. Maybe this year, the West will seek a change and follow through.

 

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By Benjamin Jury

Hello and welcome to the US-Middle East Youth Network (USMEYN) blog! Today, our staff of over a dozen writers and I are pleased to present our new website, designed by our Chief Technology Officer, Joshua Shinbrot.

My name is Benjamin Jury. I am a sophomore attending Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, majoring in Regional and Comparative Studies focused solely on the roots and legacies of authoritarianism in the countries of the Middle East. I joined the USMEYN blog staff as a writer in April 2014 under the leadership of our former editor-in-chief Nicolò Donà Dalle Rose. In June 2014, I became deputy blog editor and have since worked alongside Nico and the rest of our leadership to create and curate some incredible pieces by our talented, ever-growing staff.

As Nico noted yesterday, “the new website represents the output of hard work to establish a solid network of writers, a strong team, and a shared passion for debate, research, and analysis.” It also presents our writers, readers, and editors with the chance to foster and develop a crucial aspect of this US-Middle East conversation largely ignored by the media: the voice of each nation’s youth. Our site focuses on op-ed styled articles rather than ‘hard news’ pieces to truly allow our authors to speak their minds.

We live in an age increasingly focused on the political, cultural, and economic conflicts between the West and the Middle East. Our goal at the US-Middle East Youth Network is not only to voice our own opinions, but also to challenge the stereotypes perpetuated by the Western media. Indeed, the colonial era is far from over, and the most important conversations about Western imperialism and influence in the Middle East are often swept under the rug. Our network provides a space to publish opinions that lie on any point in the ideological spectrum.

In the coming months, we will expand beyond our base in the United States, reaching out once again to youth in the Middle East to create an intellectual space for young writers to have their voices heard. Progress will come by adding a new dimension to the conversation, and our blog hopes to contribute in some small way to the international dialogue.

We are always looking for new opinions. We encourage comments and guest submissions, as well as applications to join our staff. Take a look at our site and let us know what you think. We hope you appreciate what we have to offer, and look forward to your continued readership in the coming days.

Benjamin Jury
Editor-in-Chief

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By Nicolò Donà Dalle Rose

The lives lost every day in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other parts of the region are a constant reminder of the need for better understanding of the forces and true richness of the Middle East. For centuries, many Western observers of the Middle East have consistently failed to truly comprehend the region’s politics beyond their attempts to prove the false superiority of Eurocentric values and norms. While many of these studies seemed innocuous at the time of their publication, they ultimately laid the foundations for colonialism, imperialistic policies, and war. The disastrous consequences and reactions to these Western behaviors, along with several other factors, have led to the Middle East as we know and perceive it today.

Over the past months we at the US-Middle East Youth Network have made incredible progress towards our goal of creating a leading forum for the analysis of Middle East politics, while connecting active young voices across the world. Though there is still much more work to do, the new website represents the output of hard work to establish a solid network of writers, a strong team, and a shared passion for debate, research, and analysis. Keeping in mind both our past successes and failures, we strive to express our fallible opinions using reputable sources, hard data, and the utmost caution.

When I took on the position of Editor-in-Chief in April 2014, USMEYN published a few articles a year with a staff of very few writers. Thanks to the admirable work and drive of many individuals who have since decided to join the team, we now have a formidable writing staff who produce new analysis almost every day, as well as a consolidated international following.

Having led these efforts surrounded by fantastic people, it is now time for me to step down as I near the end of my undergraduate studies. These months have been incredibly rewarding, and I hope I have done a sufficient job at allowing our writing staff to make the best out of this platform and expanding the reach of the publication. I will now be helping the new leadership grow and maintain a network of alumni who have written for USMEYN during their time in university.

It is with great pleasure to announce Benjamin Jury’s succession as head of USMEYN’s editorial team. Ben is a phenomenal writer and good friend of mine, and he has helped me with the blog since the very beginning. I am confident that he will take the blog even further than where it is today. I also want to thank Olivia Daniels, Yasmin Faruki, Josh Shinbrot, the incoming editorial team, and all of the writers.

Thank you for all your support. I hope that, in some small capacity, I was able to show my passion for the Middle East. I look forward to hearing more and more opinions and perspectives on the subjects with which we deal every day.

Nicolò Donà dalle Rose
Editor-in-Chief

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