Monday, June 18, 2018
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A changing season

WashingtonBy Nick Clark

A wander amid monumental Washington stirs the imagination. What machinations behind the marbled walls of power?

You can not help but think of imperial Rome, with the granite and the famous on horseback in perpetual statue.

The Heights of Buildings Act of 1899 decreed there could never be any skyscrapers to blight the bold skyline.

And shortly, the capital's 3,700 cherry trees, donated by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912, will explode into bloom and throw a smear of pink blossom across the purple imperium.

As the buds fatten, behind the scenes the Obama administration assesses change in the Middle East. It's been a cautious approach with Libya, throwing the ball to the UN.

Of course not everyone is impressed with this tactic. There are editorials aplenty out here bemoaning Obama's so-called weak stance. The Washington Post for one.

But then on the same pages, an opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria talks of this quiet approach of supporting freedom, but not imposing it.

"As unsatisfying as this might have been as public rhetoric, it had the effect of allowing the Arab revolts of 2011 to be wholly owned by the Arabs," said Zakaria.

"This is no small matter, because the success of these protests hinges on whether they will be seen as organic, indigenous, national movements."

Zakaria goes on to make the point that a new strategy for a new Middle East is now required.

This is emphasised in another article placed just above, written this time by Tzipi Livni, Israel's former deputy prime minister and now head of the opposition.

And here - notes of optimism from the fallout of revolution.

"It offers the unprecedented possibility in the Middle East for a peace between peoples." said Livni.

Livni's words are couched with the reality that a negative scenario very much exists - in that this opening could be abused by those for whom democratic values are foreign.

But she ends with these thoughts about the possibility ahead:

"A universal standard, applied to all states, that empowers those truly committed to democracy and disempowers the extremists who seek to disabuse it, offers an opportunity to advance the free world’s hopes, confront our fears and answer the call of thousands throughout the Middle East."

Everyone's got a view as we wait and wonder if a new spring will indeed blossom across the Middle East.

Nick Clark is a presenter and correspondent for Al Jazeera based in Doha.

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