The tipping point

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 16:30 in Psychology & Sociology

When Marshall Nannes began researching his master’s thesis on American military bases in Bahrain and Kuwait, he did something practically unknown. He actually asked the people in those countries how they felt about the U.S. presence there. “All the research on the topic was at the government-to-government level,” said Nannes, a graduate student at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) who traveled to the two tiny Mideast nations in January for his research. The popular wisdom, he said, was that “it doesn’t really matter what the people — the opposition leaders — think.” A scant two months later, Bahrain has been swept by turbulent demonstrations and a government crackdown. Bahraini opposition leaders, once just the subjects of Nannes’ obscure thesis, now are interviewed regularly in The New York Times. And Bahrain’s protesters are trumpeting their anger in the streets. Political protests are sweeping the Arab world across a 2,000-mile crescent. The unrest...

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