How the Arab Spring Exposed the Limits of American Power

TIME

When it comes to Revolutions, timing may be everything. The Middle East has now endured four years of uprisings with no peaceful end in sight, in part because it had the historical misfortune of entering a revolutionary moment at the same time that the U.S. — and the wider Western world — was marked by its own profound period of political and economic dysfunction.

This isn’t just a historical lesson. As Congress debates whether to give President Obama a new AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force), and as the 2016 presidential hopefuls propose their solutions to America’s foreign policy challenges, we need to determine what needs to be done differently, now that our economy is on a growth path, even if our politics remain dysfunctional.

When long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunis on January 14, 2011, the United States was in its ninth year of post-9/11…

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