Since the earliest days of the Arab Spring, U.S. policy has been waylaid by deep confusion on the vital question of state sovereignty — when we may violate it, and when we should recognize it. Answering that question will help us understand both how to handle decrepit Arab regimes on their way out, and how to shape the emergence of a new order in the Arab world.
The Obama administration’s initial response to the demonstrations at Tahrir Square in Cairo was an early signal of confusion in the government. Was the U.S. position that President Hosni Mubarak had violated an otherwise legitimate constitution? Or was it that the constitution of Egypt, such as it was, was illegitimate?
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