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Arab Spring issues discussed at University of Central Oklahoma event

UCO President Don Betz and New York Times Deputy Foreign Editor Michael Slackman discussed democracy and the Arab Spring as a part of the American Democracy Project's civic engagement conference at the university.
BY VALLERY BROWN Published: April 19, 2012

Using the example of the fall of the Iron Curtain and other regional revolutions, Betz explained that what's happening in the Middle East isn't as simple as one religion or one group against another.

“We are observing literally an awakening of a region,” he said.

U.S. foreign policy and the sentiments of citizens here do affect how the government reacts to these uprisings.

Betz and Slackman said while many in the Middle East are fond of Americans, they are critical of U.S. foreign policy.

Betz said this is particularly true when it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestine.

“Those critical voices are muted here,” Betz said.

Slackman's presentation is a part of a series of events leading up to Betz's inauguration as UCO president Friday. He's been in the position since August, and formerly worked for the United Nations on Middle East issues.

Betz also serves as a member of the founding implementation committee for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities American Democracy Project.