The Arab Spring – Can It Avoid Death?
A high degree of pessimism continues to hold a strong grip over the enthusiasts of democracy in the Arab world. In the last one year or so, the popular uprisings for social and political change have stalled in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where the populace succeeded in toppling the authoritarian rulers, things did not change that much. Violence, conflicts, and killings of political opponents disturbingly characterize all the Arab countries affected by the popular uprisings. On the whole, the success rate of democratization is so far disappointing. That begs the question whether the Arab popular uprisings for democratic change, what the media conveniently dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’, are dead or still alive. Certainly, the Arab Spring is not dead; prevailing political and economic realities do, however, indicate that it is inching towards the death bed. Though it is too early to make such an assertion, the insurmountable political and economic challenges facing the post-revolutionary governments portend less hope for its success. There exist huge gaps between what the pro-democracy forces expected from the revolutions, that is, the expectations of transforming their societies away from authoritarian to democratic order, and what has been achieved or what is achievable on the ground. Neither national conditions nor global developments appear propitious to favor the goals and expectations of the pro-democracy forces. The Arab Spring, in stark contrast to other great historical revolutions, is marked by a series of distinctive features, and many of its weaknesses largely originate from these distinctive features. This is probably the first time in history that popular uprisings for social and political change kicked off without a particular ideology to promote. The Arab youths who organized the uprisings and shaped its course come from different political persuasions; they had no common political platform, no common political thread to tie them together. Neither in the post-uprisings period did they galvanize their political spirit by floating a common political party to consolidate their victories against the anti-democratic, counter-revolutionary forces. Equally noticeable was the absence of able leaders to guide the uprisings to successful conclusions. True, there existed some timid political parties in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen but no revolutionary or visionary leaders in the likes of George Washington, V. I. Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Ayatollah Khomeini or Nelson Mandela. These political parties were hesitant to join the pro-democracy popular movements but tried to catch up once protesters defied the security forces and went out of control of the autocratic regimes. The leadership vacuum has put the army initially and then the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Ennahda Party in Tunisia, a conglomerate of anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya, and elements of the old guards in Yemen in power. The beginning rather sounded inauspicious. Worse of all, the uprisings have fostered close collaboration between democratic and counter-revolutionary camps. The conservative Gulf monarchies, except Kuwait to a large extent, are the most fortified anti-democratic fort of the Middle East. In order to preserve hereditary rules and oil money-supported patronage systems, the Saudi King Abdullah sent troops on 14 March 2011 to suppress the popular demands for political and economic reforms in the island kingdom of Bahrain. The US, which has its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain and a welter of strategic and business interests throughout the Gulf, acquiesced to Saudi intervention. Iran was projected as the enemy out there to take advantage. The Saudis, the Qataris and the Americans also found themselves onboard to oust Muammar Gaddafi through NATO-led military assault on Libya – a wonderful episode of cooperation between democracy and authoritarianism history will preserve in its archive for good....
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