MENA: History in the Making
Weekly Pulse
25 Feb-3 March 2011
Tunisians took the lead. The Egyptians followed. And now we have the people of Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and several other countries of North Africa and the Middle East led by suppressive and exploitative regimes and rulers building upon the essentially youth-led and technologically-driven peoples’ revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. We are doubtlessly witnessing the making of a new promising history in the Muslim world.

The process of radical political change in the region is so eventful that predicting its eventual outcome, case-by-case, is next to impossible. But one thing is clear: the two driving forces of this historic transformation, the bulge of youth and the power of technology, will ensure that it remains unstoppable. This is despite the fact that, unlike the case of Tunisia and Egypt, where state armies refused to comply with the pleas of dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak to use force against peaceful protestors, the turn of events in Libya in the past week and in Bahrain the previous week was ridden with terrorist assaults on innocent civilians by loyalist armies of both regimes and mercenaries hired by Gaddafi.

Amazingly, it was only when the dictators have seen it, meaning the revolution, coming, only then they have started to talk about political reforms. You look at each of these Middle Eastern and North African Muslim dictators, including those who have already ungracefully fallen and those up for a humiliating demise, sooner rather than later, their terms in office will not be less than 30 years. Gaddafi perhaps tops the list for being in power for full 41 years. And almost each one of them had his son ready to build upon the father’s despicable legacy to play with the destiny of another poor generation for an equally long, if not more, period.

The pattern is becoming all too familiar, from Tunisia to Egypt, and now to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Sudan, and the list goes on. The rulers appearing on state televisions and stating what they would never have under normal circumstances: That they will not run for re-election: Mubarak declared that before the fall, and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced the same now. That their self-chosen successor, the son, will not run for political office either. In a frustrating bit to stonewall the coming revolution or as a last-ditch attempt to preserve a dictatorial regime, Mubarak had to sacrifice son Gamal, who was being cultivated as his successor for years. Yemeni President Saleh has likewise pledged not to let his son Ahmed succeed him. Both sons were given important state portfolios so as to train themselves in the art of suppression and exploitation.

Moreover, as the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Sudan and other countries, already facing or likely to confront widespread youth-led public revolts suggest, the regimes and leaders have tried or are desperately attempting to offer a whole lot of political reforms, unheard of or, rather, unexpected of them, until a few weeks or months ago: raising salaries of government employees, reforming the constitutions, so on and so forth. That the age-old Muslim rulers of these countries will stoop so low, and be ready to talk of democratic reforms as part of the mischievous power play, is amazing, however quite understandable.

All of these assurances about not seeking re-election and not to let their sons succeed them, as well as offers of political reforms and economic incentives, by the rulers who fell, and by those fearing a demise, were in essence a farce. As, in normal circumstances, you cannot expect them to move even an inch on issues of democracy, economic equity and social justice.

Thus, the legality and morality of a radical political change in the Arab Muslim world currently underway is not at all questionable. That it has taken ages, several decades since the demise of the Ottoman or European colonialism in the region is quite tragic. And here the blame certainly goes to the leaders of the so called Free World, who kept propping up Middle Eastern and North African dictatorships despite the horrendous domestic implications of this unjust policy or its equally horrific backlash for the principal leader of the Free World, the United States of America.

Insofar as the US role in the Muslim world is concerned, just consider this possibility: if propping up Muslim dictatorship was one of the main reasons for rampant anti-Americanism in the world of Islam, then the spread of democracy in the region may finally put an end to the biggest paradox of US foreign policy in the last several decades: that of its rightful claim to have internally created the most liberal of all democratic systems and the wrongful conduct of supporting undemocratic regimes and rulers across the Muslim world.

It is this paradox which largely produces hatred for the Americans and fuels extremism among Muslim masses. There are, indeed, several other causes of why the rage against America has increased overtime across the Muslim world. One, the very regimes Washington propped up also tactfully and deliberately thrived on anti-Americanism. Two, the wars America waged in recent years, in Iraq and Afghanistan, may have played a part in the process. Three, the unequivocal support that the US extends to Israel on the Palestinian issue may also have enraged Muslim masses.

In essence, anti-Americanism is a complex subject. Yet, there is general scholarly consensus about American backing of fallen dictators like Mubarak and those still in office across the region is the main cause of why Muslims hate America. Given that, what is now happening now across the Middle East and North Africa, be it Libya and Bahrain today, or Yemen and Sudan tomorrow—a revolution that is nearing a success—must be fully supported by the United States, and the entire democratic world.

The first task is to use the platform of the UN to prevent all out massacres of people, as is turning out to be the case in Libya, as they move non-violently to uproot the dictatorships. As clear from Gaddafi's defiant speech on Libyan state TV the other day, the man, calling protestors "cockroaches" and "rats", is prepared to do anything, including genocide, to retain himself and his cronies in power. The UN Security Council acted in time to warn the Libyan authorities against use of force. They must additionally be aware of the consequences of any bid to further commit state terrorism against Libyan people.

Gaddafi, the biggest joker the Muslim world has ever produced, must be made to understand that if he physically survives the revolution after orchestrating state terrorism against Libyans, there is no question for him spending the rest of his life in comfort in political exile, say, in a villa in Saudi Arabia, as Edi Amin did or Ben Ali has. As more and more of his loyalists, including several diplomats and top government leaders, abandon Gaddafi, accusing him of ordering the massacre of innocent people, his departure from power seems to be only a matter of time.

However, once the dust settles down, a more tedious task will await the international community: that of helping all of the countries in the post-revolution period to reshape state and nation-building processes geared towards acquiring what their peoples never had and always wished for: a genuine democracy, an economic system based on equity and a social structure ensuring justice. In this context, the Obama Administration as well as the European Union, due to its geographical contiguity with the regions under revolt, must extend due political and economic support to the new regimes as soon as they are formed.

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