What effect, if any, has the Obama administration had on geographies of international relations and politics with regards to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising?
Geography has been ever-present within political and developmental endeavors worldwide. Through the emergence of rational and forward-thinking states, the processes of modernity and orientalism (Said, 1977), and establishment of rudimental international relations, geography has always had its place carving the way in terms of how we think about spatial realities. Looking at more contemporary ideologies of post-modernism and the rejection of spatial emphasis, through the heightened interconnectivity that comprehensively covers our world (Ó Tuathail, 1998), this essay will focus on the fragile relations between the Obama administration and North Africa and Middle East during the ongoing turmoil regarding the Arab Spring. Seeing what effect legislation and policies implemented by the US government has had on the nations undergoing or exiting political upheaval, as well as American perceptions in the shaping of international development and geopolitics. It is necessary to point out that this essay will pick out examples from an array of nations, rather than highlight one state, to utilize relevant events coordinated with geopolitical processes. It will centre on the social, economic and political areas in which the Obama administration has affected the region.
Socially, the Arab Spring was very significant in publicizing the extent of civil unrest against an oppressive regime, that stretched beyond that of solely political action (Dabashi 2012). The revolutions that occurred in the spring of 2011 saw a new ‘liberation geography’ emerge in the Middle East and North Africa in an attempt to break away from tyrannical dictatorships, yet also the all-encompassing and ever-present stigma of Orientalism (Said 1977). The protestation that came out of Egypt carried the chant “al-Sha’b Yurid Isqat al-Nizam” (Dabashi 2012:p2), which translates, ‘people demand the overthrow of the regime’. The ‘regime’, meaning the geographical imagination of western perceptions of the orient as the other when compared to the West. The Arab Spring therefore is not simply founded on the inhumane dictatorships of Arab leaders, but the postcolonial power of the US that continues to marginalise the people through an informal imperialisation (Flint and Taylor 2011). The Obama administration has been condemned for complying with orientalism by regularly portraying Jews as westernized and in that sense superior to Arabs, (Massad 2011 cited in Dabashi 2012:p41). Massad (2011) reports that by doing so, Arabs are resembled as ‘others’ consequently suppressing their race in an attempt to keep the idea of the West alive, keeping it pure and developed, and projecting itself as the center for democracy.
However Obama openly supported the human rights movement of the Arab Spring (Black 2011) claiming it America’s responsibility to lead the international community as a matter of global security (Feaver and Popescu 2012). Therefore America feels obliged to involve itself to benefit the social well being of the people. Whether this is due to their previous backing of the tyrannical dictators during the Cold War (Abukhalil 2012) and their resulting moral obligation, or an idea of a new re-shaped vision of geography (Potter 2001) where the core takes responsibility for the periphery. However, Dadush and Dunne (2011) have called Obama’s proverbial bluff, exclaiming, “more concrete expressions of support have been lacking.” This could be due to the fact that Arab states have been cautious to receive American, interference (Ademovic 2012). Therefore Obama’s administration could be reluctant to provide support because of the current turbulent economic climate (Dadush and Dunne 2011) to a country that opposes their ideals. But stigma on the world stage and economic advantages mean that the US will follow suit and...
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