Flash Point in the Eastern Mediterranean: Op-Ed by Dean Stavridis

Foreign Policy

Dean Stavridis The Fletcher School

We need a strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is not a new crisis. The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy lived and wrote in Egypt a century ago. One of his short, evocative poems is entitled "In Alexandria, 31 B.C." It is about an itinerant peddler who comes to the city to hawk his wears and is beaten badly by the crowds. The poem ends:

“And when he asks, now totally confused, 'What's going on here?' 
someone tosses him too the huge palace lie: 
that Antony is winning in Greece.”

Here, in a few lines of poetry, is a metaphor not just for Egypt, but for the entire Eastern Mediterranean: crowd violence, confusion on the ground, economic disruption, and failing strategic communications.

In the midst of such frustration and seemingly intractable hatreds, it may feel like time to simply disengage and walk away. There is enormous Middle East fatigue in the United States -- the majority of Americans oppose intervening in Syria, and few even try to comprehend it all: Palestinians and Israelis, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Jews, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, Christians and Druze. To analysts, the region is an arc of crisis; to the public, it is just a mess.

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