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Arab Awakening

September 13, 2012

Middle East appeared out of the ashes of World War I.  Nation states carved out of the Ottoman Empire on the whims of the colonial masters.  Most never had an active role in their setup or the form of governance. Freedom and Democracy then was a far cry and now still eludes many almost a century later.  With the fall of totalitarian regimes in Tunisia, Tripoli, Cairo now a reality and Damascus currently embroiled and in the thick of things. I can’t help but wonder which way will this spring eventually bounce?

Arab Spring” countries have just found them a new toy in the right of “freedom of expression” a corner stone of democracy.  Those of us on the outside cannot help but be happy for them.  Fact is true democracy starts at the grass roots level and is entirely people driven. Not the kind we here in the US like shoving down people’s throats for the fear of sending them back to the Stone Age.  How can anyone not applaud a people’s quest for freedom and appreciate the sacrifices that many have given with their lives.  Most of the World besides North America and Western Europe remains locked by the shackles of human bondage in forms to include Kingdoms, serfdoms,  totalitarianism, sham democracies, and feudal rule.  So, it is heartening for those that remain subjected to the cruelties and deprivation the result of restrictive systems to sit up and cheer. Hope is eternal and they hope that each one of them be endowed with the same spirit to rise and free themselves of the burden of Totalitarian regimes and feudal lords. So the World sits jubilant to see a dictator after dictator fall from self serving grace.  

But then Cheerleading will end and life will return to its normal pace; however, for the countries of the Arab spring the new dawn brings hope and cause for reflection.  The return to sobriety will usher in a myriad of challenges and possibilities not just for these countries but the World community.   The choices made today will dictate the outcomes of tomorrow.   Freedom hopefully will lead them to new thinking, afford them choices about themselves and those around them and we earnestly hope strengthen their resolve to never allow themselves and their nation to return to the days of yore. 

At the present it is safe to assume the future of these countries remains uncertain with a hint of promise.  Expectations remain high and there may be unreasonable demands for immediate results and changes.  There may also be buyer’s remorse where freedom and democracy may find each other at odds with expectations.  Democracy needs time to develop through literal acts of crawling and baby steps. It’s not a process that can be shoved down and made to fit. There is no instant version that I know of and categorically all of these countries have never tasted democracy.   Democracy is really a feeling a way of life that develops and grows with time it needs to go through a process of trial and error, bumps and bloopers that will severely test the resolve of these peoples. We have a great example of the World’s oldest democracy the United States that many will admit is still growing, learning and adjusting perhaps, a testament to its resolve to stay the course and a reflection of its people for how much they cherish their freedom and choice.

 At the moment Tunisia the pioneer of sorts to this Arab spring seems to be coping the best and fair to say Egypt not too far behind and as I write there seems a good possibility the Muslim Brotherhood will be forming a new coalition Government.  This may be one of the more inspiring developments in years not just to Egypt but perhaps the Muslim World.

Through, all this both these nations and their people now sit post struggle somewhat spent of energy and adrenaline contemplating their individual fate. Noteworthy, is the distinct absence of any prolonged guerrilla style conflict and to everyone’s relief no arms proliferation?  Absence of foreign intervention and I can’t help but think literacy rates in both these nations played a role in minimizing the use of violence.  Equally, appreciable is the absence of covert foreign intervention. With no discernable policy objectives from a security as well as a vital national interest perspective the absence of foreign intervention is understandable and I might add greatly, appreciated.  For the US the Egyptian situation was a sort of a caveat. On one hand the champion of democracy could not be seen as one siding with a dictator yet, this was no ordinary dictator it was a US lackey and best of all friend of Israel.  Clearly, both regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali were west friendly.

But, then as we turn our attention to the other half of this spring the situation goes from uncertain to sinister. The ousting of Qaddafi in Libya and the on-going resistance in Syria to put it mildly present an interesting situation!  Granted the World community feels no less pride for the people of both these nations as it did for their brethren in Egypt and Tunisia.  However, the situation specifically in Libya as Syria still remains volatile with violence on an upward trend looks menacing.  The situation in Syria though bad may change for the worse if the traditional war mongerer’s like McCain & company get their way in urging the US to step in and take an active military role. We most certainly do not wish to see another Libya type situation in Syria. Diplomatic efforts have to be given a chance and the Syrian people have to be allowed to decide their destiny and make their own choices in whether to rid themselves of Asad or find a political solution that fits their scheme of things whatever that may be. We have already closed our embassy in Damascus with Britain and now Turkey following suit. Nonetheless, civil disobedience continues and most of the brutality it seems being committed is state sanctioned. 

Libya on the other hand, presents a scarier version of the Arab spring as compared to other countries. In Libya the spring that launched a struggle turned into a civil war. The involvement of the western powers, in the form of precision airstrikes seemed like a necessity.  However, the literal proliferation of weaponry in the hands of a half cocked, makeshift guerrilla force was irresponsible.  Good intentions paving the road to hell.   As a parallel I am reminded of the situation during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  With good intentions we loaded the then Mujahedeen now turned Taliban with weapons that are now being used on the US during our invasion of the same country.  When are we going to learn?

Libya is now saturated with all kinds of weaponry the result of good intentions and what we earlier “Sold” to the Libyans in the name of trade.  A lethal brew is in the making of weaponry in the hands of youth with plenty of unspent adrenaline.  To say that the civil action in Libya has ended is a folly.  To acknowledge that Qaddafi and his gang have been ousted is a fact. The scary part of this whole picture is not the brutalities committed while it went on, instead the aftermath of this civil war.  Libya now, in a span of a few months has taken a rather sinister turn with hundreds if not thousands of weapons floating about in the hands of a hyper mob at best a makeshift guerilla force. A recent Aljazeera report shows armed gangs of youth along public streets acting as self proclaimed vigilantes and protectors.

In the near term at the moment there is plenty of goodwill towards the West just like we did in Afghanistan.  However, this situation is not permanent by any stretch of imagination.  Libya still is an unstable Islamic country with a majority illiterate population.  To add to this mix are the remnants of the baath as well as Al Qaeda influences that may have penetrated or even taken hold during the turmoil.  The calm volatility could change for the worse with some spark of dissent.  But if we learnt anything from the Afghanistan experience we should know all too well goodwill can change and today’s freedom fighter may be tomorrow’s terrorists.  In Libya we used a ballistic missile where we could have done with a fly swatter.

Even if we assume there will be a consensus Government a highly unlikely scenario considering tribal, societal makeup and divided loyalties. The larger problem of the high strung mob of youth with weaponry and the unspent adrenaline in the after math of the political struggle is a ticking time bomb. Libya in both near and long term spells Libyaistan.

The World community that cheered on the “new democracies” now needs to be concerned about the future direction of these nations.  Who almost certainly do not have the political maturity and the will to exercise the new found right of Freedom of expression and in the process casting a dark shadow over this Arab awakening.

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One Comment
  1. Raza permalink

    Very nice article very close to what I think is happening in the Muslim world the only thing I would like to add is that the U.S govt should stop protecting the corrupt rulers of the Arab world like Saudi Arabia as these countries are responsible for Taliban’s if the money flow can be stopped from these countries half the problems will be solved, and the other thing is to see who you are supporting like in Libya now the Taliban’s are in control and also in Syria they have fighters from different Arab countries that are all Taliban’s

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