Truth Dig’s Barry Lando about the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and what I might call the next round of chickens coming home to roost.
With Friends like these, who needs Democracy?
The US are in a bit of a jam with facing the radical consequences of some of their best allies’ oppressive domestic policies. On the one hand the US relies on dodgy partners to keep a foot in the various strategically interesting regions of the world, not only to fight islamist terrorism and maintain a network of military bases around the world, but also to keep the doors open for US multinationals to earn themselves silly.
On the other hand, those same partners could hardly have more disregard for democratic principles, thus fostering local radical groups who–you guessed it–for lack of political alternatives, may end up joining religious fanatics as the only remaining opposition force in those countries.
Why does the current Tunisian people’s uprising against its dictator remind me of Algeria in the early 90s? Or the first free democratic elections in Gaza in 2006? I guess we’ll have to see if there will be new elections and if so, who gets all the votes and who of the international powers-that-be decide to accept the result of the elections, as they like to pretend they do. It is democracy at work, right?…
Granted, not all elections end up bringing peace-loving, harmony-seeking factions to power, but that is precisely the conondrum the western powers face: they’ve been scratching the backs and rocking the balls of dictators for too long to not be an accessory to creating the very radical atmosphere where such extreme groups evolve from. In short, they’ve been keeping the lids on those pots sealed a bit too tightly. And now that the chef’s gone and the lids on those pressure cookers are gradually popping off themselves, they’re bound to end up making a mess in the kitchen… But even while the crap hits the ceiling, the US foreign and domestic policy is far from learning from its mistakes and from addressing lopsided power balances in the Middle East, for instance, or at home, to prevent the next outbreak of violence.
Assuming the Tunisian military actually agrees to hold free elections (not at all a sure thing), will the generals really throw open the doors to all political groups? Nationalists? Islamists? Marxists? Anti-militarists? What forces will roil to the surface after decades of political repression? Will they throw in their lot with America’s war against terror, or join the ranks of those in the Middle East who increasingly see what’s going on as America’s war against Islam? […]
There is no way, for instance, that Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 30 years, will permit a democratic opening. Thanks to his ironclad dictatorship, only one group has been able to organize politically, the Islamic radicals. More secular-minded opponents have been co-opted, imprisoned or cowed. The influence of the religious extremists has grown throughout the country. It’s only the military that stands between Mubarak and chaos.
Like a deer frozen in oncoming headlights, Washington seems immobilized. On the one hand, there’s the corrupt, despotic and failing Mubarak. But he’s a friend. On the other hand, free and fair elections would almost certainly bring leaders to power much more virulently anti-Israel and opposed to U.S. policies. Perhaps Washington is hoping for the Egyptian military to step in again to save itself and its privileges—and the U.S.
Elsewhere throughout the region, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to Yemen to Ethiopia to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the picture seems markedly similar: U.S. allies are invariably corrupt dictators, maintained in power by lavish patronage and the military.