Same old story? Obama and the Arab uprisings



9 March 2012

In this research seminar Dr Jeremy Pressman discussed America's approach to the Arab uprisings.

The United States has taken a cautious approach to the Arab uprisings. Most Obama administration decisions are what one would have expected given longstanding US tendencies regarding alliances and stability. In particular, the United States government has called for regime change and democratisation with adversaries (e.g. Libya, Syria) but been reticent to do so with allies (e.g. Bahrain, Egypt). Despite pressure from elements in the US Congress and punditry for more aggressive policies, Obama officials have neither pushed a broad freedom agenda nor endorsed US-led military intervention other than in Libya (at least thus far). The only exceptions are the tentative dealings with Islamists political actors. All these US decisions are taking place against a crucial reality that is often ignored: these uprisings are driven in the particular countries, not in Washington. The United States did not start the process and does not and cannot control it.


  • Dr Jeremy Pressman
    Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut

    Jeremy Pressman was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the US Studies Centre in 2010. Pressman is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Connecticut. Whilst at the Centre, Pressman evaluated the role of the US in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967. This work on US policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict was part of a larger project that analyzed the use of military force and diplomacy by Arab actors, Israel, and the major external power, the United States.