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Western powers still don't know how to deal with Arab democracy

By Maath Musleh

The leaders of the industrialized states are still confused by the revolutions in the Arab world. Many of them have given public recognition to the historic changes taking place, but few are investing significantly in preparing for the new era. Instead, the leaders of the major world powers are trying to influence changes. They are trying to set new rules for the game, rather than play by the new rules set by the people.

Demonstrator in Tahrir Square during Egypt's January 25 revolution (photo: Sarah Carr/Fickr)

The US administration was late in announcing its support for the people’s revolutions. It was easier for them to decide to invade and destroy  Iraq. That war brought fake democracy to Iraq – as we saw when the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, urged citizens not to demonstrate. The next day, Iraqi demonstrators were met with bullets. The White House was late in expressing its support for the people’s revolution in Egypt, hoping that it would not affect the status of the Camp David agreement, the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, which was brokered by the United States. Clearly, the United States does not care about democracy, putting their own political interests first.

On the Libyan front, the US has condemned Muammar Qaddafi in the strongest terms. Of course the condemnations came a week late. The US  also announced that it was engaging in dialogue with the Libyan opposition, which is a clear intervention in the Libyan revolution. Obama has ordered his ships to approach Libya’s coast. It is as though the US administration is trying to provoke Qaddafi into attacking their ships so that they will have a pretext for military intervention. After all, Libya is one huge oil field – which is the US is  more focused on influencing the results of the Libyan uprising rather than accepting them.

Europeans have been late as well. The European states’ miscalculations in the case of Tunisia influenced their taking a more cautious stand later with the uprisings in Egypt and Libya. The EU was late in condemning the tyrants ruling North Africa because they were divided, with some European states having more interests in the region than others. Italy and France, who receive the majority of Libya’s oil, were cautious in condemning Qaddafi. I wouldn’t be surprised if Qaddafi had threatened to target their cities. That is why the US has failed in convincing the EU to support a military intervention. Perhaps the Europeans learned their lesson from the Iraq war. The US harvests the most benefits from those wars, while the Europeans become the target of the most terrorist attacks and internal opposition.

The Israeli media is not taking the revolutions as seriously as it should. They’re still analyzing who supports these revolutions. Is it Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood? They are still discussing whether Camp David is in danger or not. The radical changes taking place in the Arab world are not reflected in the Israeli media’s coverage. Netanyahu, who was not interested in peace talks with the Palestinians, is now eager to sign any quick transitory agreement. But it is too late now. Expectations are much higher on the other side. The scariest part for the Israeli government is leaving behind its title of  “the only democracy” in the Middle East, in order to become the only military regime in the Middle East. But these revolutions are not about Israel: they are about 300 million Arabs living under oppressive, non-democratic regimes.

The world should stop analyzing. It’s simple –  a wall of fear fell down. The Arabs broke their handcuffs. The Middle East will now remain unstable for a long  time. The days of Israeli dominance in the region are over. Not so long ago, all you needed in order to satisfy 22 Arab presidents was to control the region. Now you need to satisfy 300 million Arab citizens. Welcome to democracy. Stop analyzing and get to work. Stop trying to influence the outcomes; accept them. Meet the radical changes  that led to freedom with another radical change – an attitude that changes from bullying to respectful. Now you need to add the Arab peoples’  interest to the equation of Middle Eastern politics.

Maath Musleh is a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem who was employed for two years as a social media specialist for the United States Consulate General in Jerusalem. Currently he is a freelance social media consultant and producer.

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    1. An interesting and insightful comment. In reality, all regimes place their own stability ahead of promoting so-called universal values – and they always will because being in power changes everyone’s perspective.

      However, the line “Stop analyzing and get to work. Stop trying to influence the outcomes; accept them” is a sentiment that should be widely promoted. Western media is still scaremongering and the general public would rather be afraid and proved right than hopeful and proved wrong. Support democracy. Follow me on twitter @CarlyBBoys

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      From what I see, there hasn’t been ANY real revolutions in the Middle East, at least since the one in Iran in 1979. Egypt and Tunisia had military cliques oust tired and unpopular leaders (i.e. unpopular with the military clique) from the Presidency, using popular demonstrations as the lever to force the old guy out. No new regimes have yet been instituted and the old Establishments are still in power. No one and nothing has replaced them.
      Libya also had an old, decrepit President who had lost touch with his power base and something like a civil war situation is currently under way. It is unclear where that is heading.

      I know Leftist/Progressives like to think that the US is some sort of anti-democratic monster out to exploit and dominate the world. Then how do you explain the Marshall Plan that fortified the democracies of Western Europe? How do you explain the fall of all the old military regimes that were in power in Latin America during the 1970’s and the establishment of civilian regimes there? How do you explain the spread of democracy in the Far East, from Japan to South Korea to Taiwan to the Philippines…all countries that have close ties with the US? How do you explain all the satellite Communist bloc countries of eastern Europe throwing off their dictatorial regimes and establishment of pro-American and pro-Western democracies?

      The question is how close are the Arab countries to setting up real democracy and not just having mob rule?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Maath Musleh

      Well Ben, the revolution is not about switching regimes, that’s too simple.

      The revolution that took place in the Arab World is the revolution of people who refuses to be bullied anymore, who refuses to be oppressed anymore, who feel Freedom for the first time since ages. Anything after that (throwing off regimes or other goals) is just a mater of time. The main thing now is that there’s no more fear. If those regimes still hanged on there for 20 more years, these will be 20 years of struggle for freedom rather than years of fear that the Arab people in for decades.

      As for the US, yes we saw a great example of a democracy that they installed in the region, IRAQ, and we saw how the recent demonstrations are being repressed, and how the PM publicly warned people from demonstrating peacefully. I’m not saying the US is a devil, they might have helped installing good values in other parts of the world, but in this part of the world, the interests are just too high.

      And by the way, thanks but no thanks, we don’t want to establish pro-American governments, we want to establish a government pro it’s people,then anything else doesn’t matter. Remember, those presidents and governments that are being thrown off are pro-American.

      Thanks for your insightful comments.

      Reply to Comment
    4. HS

      Ben Israel, are you really wanna give the US the credit for the civilian regimes in South Amererica, where they backed every fascist dictator and every corrupt oligarchy? That’s a joke.
      And what you call pro-American and pro-Western democracies are just company and lobbyist controlled capitalist regimes with very low social justice and more benefits for the wealth. Just like the USA itself.
      Having a parliament and a right to vote is one step to liberation, but not real democracy, where the people are in control.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      I see Egypt is holding a referendum on various constitutional amendments (among which prevent the “wife of the President” from being a foreigner-I guess they are writing off women as President) this weekend. They were drawn up two weeks ago. Any REAL democracy will draw up things like this in a drawn out process in order to get input from all sectors of society (e.g. in the US 2/3 of both Houses of Congress plus 3/4 of the states must ratify). Here no on is given any time to digest and discuss the proposals. The article in the New York Times says the Muslim Brotherhood and military cliques are supporting them. Thus, we see they are attempting to ram these things through without any discussion. This is “democracy”?

      Reply to Comment

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