The United States and the Arab Awakening -- An Early Assessment

CISAC Conference Room
  • Tamara Wittes


Tamara Cofman Wittes, who helped manage the State Department's response to the Arab Awakening and now directs the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, will reflect on the US government's reactions to the dramatic change underway in the Arab world -- how the Obama Administration viewed the uprisings, and how its policy evolved over time as different cases emerged from Tunisia to Libya and Syria. What were the key concerns shaping the US policy response to events? How much difference did American policy make to outcomes on the ground? And, given the complex variety of outcomes now visible in the region, where is American policy toward Arab political change headed over time? 

Speaker Bio:

Tamara Cofman Wittes directs the Middle East Democracy and Development (MEDD) Project at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a regional policy center at The Brookings Institution. The MEDD Project conducts research into political and economic reform in the region and US efforts to promote democracy there. It also hosts visiting fellows from the Middle East.

Before joining the Saban Center in December 2003, Dr. Wittes served as Middle East specialist at the US Institute of Peace and previously as director of programs at the Middle East Institute in Washington. She has also taught courses in International Relations and Security Studies at Georgetown University. Dr. Wittes was one of the first recipients of the Rabin-Peres Peace Award, established by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

Dr. Wittes’s latest book is Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy (Brookings Press). She is also editor of How Israelis and Palestinians Negotiate: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Oslo Peace Process (USIP, 2005). Her recent work includes “What Price Freedom? Assessing the Bush Administration’s Freedom Agenda,” and “Back to Balancing in the Middle East,” co-authored with Martin Indyk.

 Her analyses of US democracy promotion, Arab politics, the Middle East peace process, and other policy topics have been published in the Washington Post, Policy Review, Political Science Quarterly, the American Interest, the Weekly Standard, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. Dr. Wittes holds a B.A. in Judaic and Near Eastern Studies from Oberlin College; her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government are from Georgetown University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.