- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
Steve McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy has trolled through President Bush’s budget request to Congress and discovered that it includes a huge increase in funds for promoting democracy and good governance in the "Broader Middle East and North Africa" (BMENA) region:
Requested funding for democracy and governance programs in the BMENA region is $758 million, an 89% increase over FY08 levels. This is 10.2% of the total request for the region, higher than the fraction of the budget in any previous year. GJD programs have received steady increases in funding throughout the Bush administration, and annual levels of funding now exceed the total granted for such programs from 1991 to 2001.
As McInerney notes, the vast majority of U.S. aid to the region will still be military in nature, and especially in Persian Gulf countries. Repressive Tunisia won’t be getting any funds this year, after a one-year experiment that must not have worked out so well. Nor will Bahrain and Kuwait, as Congress nixed their funding last year (the State Department does conduct democratization programs in those countries, however).
I’m all for democracy in the Middle East; I once worked in Egypt for an NGO promoting it. But I have deep doubts about how effective more U.S. funding can really be at this point. Without some major changes in the American approach to the region — and some strategic shifts by Arab leaders — I doubt that throwing more foreign money at the problem will do much good. We’ll see how Congress reacts.