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All Good Things...
If good things don't necessarily go together, would it be better if they did?
One should, in theory, be able to do two things at once: to recognize that democracy, which is good, may produce outcomes that are not. Good things do not necessarily go together. At some basic level, it wouldn't be right for good things to go together too much. Would it even be just? If good were layered on top of good, there would be no real sense of the tragic to chasten us.
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These dilemmas are difficult to discuss, in part because they relate to existential questions around the meaning and purpose of politics. Americans, in periods of overconfidence abroad, could often act and speak as if first principles were resolved and no longer contested. But they are contested.
The inability and unwillingness to acknowledge tensions between competing values fueled misplaced and unrealistic expectations about what the Middle East could become—and then later it fueled, albeit less obviously, unrealistic expectations about what the United States would become.
When the Arab Spring began, Americans saw something they could relate to. I was living in the region at the time, and I couldn’t have anticipated all of what was to come. And a lot of it certainly wasn’t “good.” But, at least for a moment, this foreign world seemed less foreign. Finally, Arabs were catching up with history.