Middle Easterners are used to seeing the US as the invincible Superpower, but events in Iraq are changing America's image. Is the Great Satan incompetent after all? What does that mean for governments that depend on US support and for America's own objectives? Also, stock prices continue to drop—in the US, Europe and Asia and, on Reporter's Notebook, gay rights and Democratic candidates last night in Los Angeles.
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Stock prices dropped again on Wall Street today—following markets in Europe and Asia—which, in turn, were responding to America's sub-prime lending problems. It's the dark side of what has been a stabilizing factor. That's according to Daniel Gross who writes the Contrary Indicator column for Newsweek and Moneybox for Slate.com.
Polls show that vast numbers of Middle Easterners believe the US wants to divide their region, take over their oil and replace Islam with Christianity. Al Jazeera TV, newspapers and magazines promote the idea of a grand conspiracy by an invincible Superpower. Conspiracy theories about western imperialism have a rich history in the Middle East. While recently, it's the United States that gets the blame—or the credit—for events that might otherwise be inexplicable, the chaos of the Iraq occupation appears to be changing public opinion. Is America incompetent after all? Can it be defeated? With public opinion changing, where does that leave the governments supported by the US? What will it mean for American interests in a volatile region?
Richard Bulliet, Professor of History, Columbia University
Rami Khouri, Daily Star / Harvard's Belfer Center / American University of Beirut (@RamiKhouri)
Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute (@dpletka)
Gregory Gause, Director of Middle East Studies, University of Vermont
Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics and Politics
Gays and lesbians are active in Democratic politics and constitute one of the party's more reliable voting blocs, but the nation is divided on some of the issues they care about most. Last night in Los Angeles, six candidates for president answered questions from a very interested audience. Gravel and Kucinich said they were in favor of same-sex marriage; Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Richardson all were opposed—saying the rights of gay and lesbian couples could be guaranteed by civil unions. None of the candidates changed their positions, but they offered a contrast to what their Republican counterparts have been saying. Matt Foreman is executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force