For generations the Middle East has served as a setting for the grand narratives of American imperial power. US presidents have had a long-standing and complex relationship with Arab leaders, often playing puppet-master to the proxies and despots they put in power to look out for US interests.
The Arab Spring ushered in the debut performance of a new player: The Arab people themselves. And they are loud, clear, and unabashed about their desire to take the front seat in the policies and procedures of their region.
"I don't think the Arab Spring is the greatest thing for American interests."
- Robert Kaplan, the national correspondent for The Atlantic
From attacked embassies to unwinnable wars, the Arab world is quickly and deftly slipping out of US control and the power the US has enjoyed in the Middle East may finally be reaching an end.
As the Arab people begin to proactively tell their leaders and the world what they want, the question now becomes how the US, so accustomed to directing the region as it pleases, will deal with its diminishing power.
Rhetorically, Barack Obama embraced the Arab Spring, but is he just the latest US president to dream of a new Middle East?
Empire asks: Will the US continue to try to dictate its own agenda with hard power? Or will it 'lead from behind', accepting a more multilateral role working with the Arab people and their leaders?
Joining us as interviewees: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former director of policy planning for the US State Department; Robert Kaplan, the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine; Francis Fukuyama, a political scientist and author of nine books including The End of History and the Last Man; and Pankaj Mishra, a noted essayist and novelist.
We debate the larger issues of US relations with the Arab world and beyond with our guests: Steven Clemons, the Washington editor-at-large of The Atlantic; Marwan Muasher, the vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation; John Esposito, a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University and the author of over 30 books, including Islamophobia: The Challenges of Pluralism in the 21st Century; and Patrick Tyler, a journalist and the author of A World of Trouble: The White House in the Middle East.