Wednesday Headlines: Obama At The UN, Why Arabs Are Fighting ISIS, The Roots Of Radical Islam

Obama: US Is Global Policeman
For more than six years, Barack Obama has been a president whose foreign policy has been driven by a desire to remove the United States from its role as global policeman, President Obama delivered a speech that seemed to reaffirm that role, says Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy.

“Obama’s address contrasted starkly with last year’s speech, in which he highlighted the limits of American power to influence events in the Middle East. Then, Obama was defending himself from charges that he allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to brutally beat down Western-backed revolutionaries and further consolidate power. ‘The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries,’ he said.

President Obama’s full UN speech.

Why The Arab States Are Fighting ISIS
While many were surprised by the cooperation and participation of several Arab states in the air strikes in Syria, Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House says the motive of the nations is borne of both foreign and domestic interests.

“The move reflects a combination of concerns about their domestic security and their international reputation. Longer term, beyond the concerns about IS itself, it reflects a desire on the part of these Arab states to play a more active role in regional security – but also illustrates the risks that can affect anyone wanting to become the policeman of the region,” she writes.

In addition, many of the Gulf states have been tied to radical groups and see benefit in joining in the fight, even if it is just to improve their own standing in the region.

“This evident disunity [among the Gulf states] has weakened the foreign policy credibility of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional alliance of Gulf monarchies, so it has been especially important for the key Gulf players to pull together against IS,” Kinninmont contends.

Today’s Radical Islamism Is Not A New Threat
David Motadel has an op-ed in The New York Times noting that ISIS and al Qaeda are new forms of a radical Islamism that is not new.

“Though in some respects unprecedented, these groups also have much in common with the Islamic revivalist movements of the 18th century, such as the Wahhabis on the Arabian Peninsula and the great jihadist states of the 19th century. They waged jihad against non-Muslim powers, and at the same time sought to radically transform their own societies,” writes Motadel.

He contends today’s radicals differ slightly from those of the 19th-century states in that they are more radical and sophisticated.

“We need to recognize what these groups really are. Referring to them as a “cancer,” as President Obama has, is understandable from an emotional standpoint, but simplifies and obscures the phenomenon. Jihadist states are complex polities and must be understood in the context of Islamic history,” he concludes.

Creating Modern Nations Through Institution Building
Featured Event: Francis Fukuyama explores the struggle to create and maintain well-functioning modern states through institution building. He offers his assessment of the future of democracy in the face of a rising global middle class and what he considers to be entrenched political paralysis in the West.


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