My latest column, which appears in today's print editions of Gulf News and is now available here at, takes President Obama's coming trip to the Middle East as a starting point and asks Arab readers (and readers who care about the US-Arab relationship) to think what, exactly, they would like to see from the US administration in the next few years.

As I say in the piece, however, there's a caveat: I'm interested in attainable goals - difficult is fine, but attainable - not wish lists. Please don't tell me that the US must alter its entire attitude toward Israel and the Palestinians because that simply is not going to happen (one could further argue that with Netanyahu in power an about-face wouldn't do much good anyway - but that's a separate discussion). Let's think about things the Arab World can ask of America that America might - just might - be willing and politically able to do.

As my latest column for Gulf News outlines, the really fascinating thing about last week's Hagel hearing, for me at least, was the evidence it offered that America's Vietnam-bred political demons have not been vanquished... they have merely evolved.

Not only was it depressing to hear so many of the real issues facing the next SecDef get any airing, but the essential backward-looking nature of the day was just sad.

As news of Bin Laden's death broke last night Gulf News moved my column up to Tuesday's paper, instead of my usual Wednesday slot. You can read the finished column here. Please return to this page to leave comments.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. America, as a society, clearly needs a sort of collective form of closure and it has been obvious over the last 12 hours that Bin Laden's death offers that.

At the risk of being a party-pooper, however, I think it is important to offer two warnings. The first, outlined at greater length in the column, is that we do ourselves a disservice if we believe that Bin Laden's death 'ends' something. The man is gone, but the vicious ideology he came to embody is far from dead. Closure regarding 9/11 is good in a narrow sense, but just as it was always a mistake to think of ourselves as being at 'war' with a tactic, it is an equally grave mistake to believe that killing one man will make that tactic go away.

Second, it is difficult to see how the circumstances surrounding Bin Laden's demise can do anything other than complicate our already-difficult relationship with Pakistan. It is simply impossible to believe that Bin Laden could have been living for an extended period in a suburb of Islamabad - a suburb reportedly popular with retired Pakistani generals, and in a compound only a few hundred meters from a military academy - without some very senior Pakistani officials being aware of that fact. In his statement Sunday night President Obama declared that the Pakistanis had offered unspecified assistance in the Navy SEAL operation that killed Bin Laden. I find this very, very hard to believe and think we must assume those comments were little more than an effort to help the Pakistanis save face.

Not that we really needed further evidence, but here, again, is proof that Washington and Islamabad are playing from vastly different scripts where both Al-Qaeda and Afghanistan are concerned. We and the Pakistanis are clearly stuck with each other, and this is only going to make our shotgun marriage that much more dysfunctional.
The rising humanitarian crisis in Libya is leading a lot of people to advocate a Western-imposed 'no-fly' zone over the country. As I note in my latest column for Gulf News, it is easy to understand the appeal of this idea, but on closer consideration it raises as many problems as it potentially solves.

Click here to read the entire column.