Monday, February 21, 2011


(I'm not sure if writing in the early morning is such a good idea but the idea was in my head and woke me up with the need to write it down.  Hopefully this is more cogent than I feel at the moment.)

In the last two months, there has been a tidal wave of change in the Middle East.  It began with Tunisia, quickly followed by Egypt and now threatens countries all over the Middle East and North Africa (though it is worth pondering if it will stop there).  Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Jordan and Yemen (among others) are all threatened with the possibility of regime change.  The leadership of those countries are all deeply concerned about the possibility of being toppled and are working to determine strategies that will enable them to stay in power.  Those strategies seem to vary from the pragmatic to the "we really do think you're stupid" approach.

Iran, for example, is actually boasting that Tunisia and Egypt's revolutions are based on their own "Islamic Revolution" from 1979 - despite any evidence that they were led by any Islamic organizations (if anything, the Muslim Brotherhood in both nations tagged along once the revolutions were well on their way).  Egypt, from the other side of that argument, claimed that its regime was preventing an Islamist takeover.  Libya has today claimed that the protests are being staged by hooligans and illegal immigrants!  (It's very hard to resist a jab at the "nativist" argument that is so prevalent on one side of the US political spectrum today.)  Indeed, each of the leaders, in essence, argues that they must stay in power in order to prevent calamity and disaster should the unwashed masses succeed in overthrowing them.

While it is still very early in both Tunisia and Egypt, there has been no marked change that would propel either nation toward a French Revolution scenario of chaos and anarchy - though it is worth pointing out that there is obvious concern both internal and external to both nations in that regard.  If anything, there has been a general happiness at the removal of a tyrannical dictatorship that will hopefully evolve toward a more democratic form in the future.  There is no way to know if the same should continue in all cases - statistics alone would indicate that is not likely to be so.  Indeed, the violence that has erupted in Libya as Qadhafi struggles to maintain his power seems to point toward a struggle that could explode when/if he does fall.  The Bahraini leadership is similarly struggling to maintain its hold on power and has not refrained from violence, either.  And the violence used by the regime in Iran actually dates back to the last (disputed) elections and is clearly a sign of the concern that government has over its own internal dissent against otherwise peaceful protesters.  But it is easy to argue that the violent upheaval that has begun in those two nations was brought on by a leadership desperate to stay in power and is therefore the chaos they warn against is of the government's own doing and not that of the revolution nor its adherents.

What does seem clear, however, is that the excuses each country's leadership makes for staying in power seem to no longer be working with their respective citizens.  And, if history is any indication (and it should be), a government cannot continue when the people have either lost faith in it or lost fear of it.  It seems that the "change" that was such a mantra in the 2008 US presidential elections has moved around the world and is more of a force elsewhere than with the man who claimed it as his mantle.

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