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The sad truth is that the dominant Western policy toward the Arab people tra- ditionally has been one of containment. Today many applaud as the people of the region take to the streets to claim their rights, but until recently Western governments frequently acted as if the Arab people were to be feared, hemmed in, controlled. In other regions, democracy spread, but in the Middle East and North Africa, the West seemed content to back an array of Arab autocrats, so long as they in turn supported Western interests. Elsewhere, governments were expected, at least in principle, to serve their people, but the West looked to the monarchs and strongmen of the Arab world to guarantee “stability,” to keep the lid on popular demands. The world’s promotion of human rights had an Arab exception.

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