Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tides of the Arab revolutions

As calls for intervention increase, ask not who will replace dictators and when, ask what replaces the regimes and how.


By Marwan Bishara

"The ebb and flow of the Arab revolutions is revealing political storms that could flood the Arab world with chaos. The people and their organised opposition groups mustn't fall prey to the dictators' ultimatums of "me or the flood".

It is a false choice.
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have shown a third way forward; one that no longer considers dictatorships as a fait accomplis, nor a spiralling descent into civil war, nor to become dependent on international protection.

This is not to say that all situations and challenges are one and the same, and revolutions must evolve like carbon copies of each other. Circumstances are, of course, different among Arab states.

But behind the specifics of each Arab society and polity there are also commonalities worth considering, without generalisation.

Three dimensions or general guidelines should, in particular, be examined....

Those Syrians asking for international intervention must consider the terrible cost paid by the Libyans.

Moreover, the oil-rich North African nation might be able to pay for reconstruction, but it won't recover the terrible "collateral damage" in human losses and injuries....Short of costly foreign military intervention with boots on the ground that would also cripple Syria's national security capabilities for decades to come, with dangerous regional and international ramifications, it's not clear how any foreign military intervention could help.....

People have every right to defend themselves - and I am in no position to ask people to suffer at the hands of their oppressors. However, those advocating the militarisation of the Arab revolutions as a strategy and asking for international intervention to support the growing insurgency have either lapsed or selective memory.

In the not so distant past, a generation of young officers between the ages of 26-36 took the reins of power and went on to rule for decades with iron fist - in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Algeria.

No domestic military answer succeeded in resolving any Arab or Middle Eastern problems in recent decades - except in terms of ridding people of colonialism. And even that has come with a very heavy price - as in the case of Algeria....

For their part, Egyptians have returned to the streets and public squares of their major cities in recent days, forcing the military to apologise for its policies, to appoint a new government with full authority and to promise to vacate its executive role after presidential elections by the middle of next year.

And even that has fallen short of peoples' demands - after tens have died in the protests at the hands of vengeful security forces. Yet the revolution has made important strides.

The week's balance sheet, like the year's in total, has been in favour of the revolution that continues to show a restless and vibrant public eager to open a new page in the history of their country.....

But as the Egyptians and the Tunisians successfully pursue their revolutionary goals peacefully - albeit slowly breaking with the past, the complications stemming from militarising the revolutions in Libya, and potentially in Yemen and Syria, would not only slow down those revolutions, but would also backfire.

Attaining their goals through peaceful means is far more productive and constructive for the Arabs in both the short and long term than pursuing military solutions with outside military help, campaigns that, in all likelihood, would take even longer and be more destructive."

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