The Arab Revolt – What’s next?

By Johan Galtung

It changes character, like in quantum mechanics, just by watching.  The French revolution did that in the late 1780s-early 1790s.  However, spring is gone, revolt is in, but so far not revolution.  There are layers of rulers and layers of opposition.  Unveiling has started.

If seeds from a winter suicide in Tunisia sprouted buds in early spring, then they must have fallen on fertile soil.  Events turn into processes when “stability” is unstable, as huge power and wealth gaps are.  The trick in the US is to make a person believe in individual mobility; “if you don’t make it that is your fault”. Others see it as a relation: by taking power/wealth from us, they became powerful and rich and we remained powerless and poor.  The former is individualist and person-oriented, the latter collectivist and system-oriented.  See it that way and revolts follow, like Tahrir Square, like Wall Street.  Nevertheless, some resources are needed.

The Arab Spring is the third Arab revolt in less than a century.

The first, in 1916-18, was against the Ottoman Empire.  The resource was England-France-Russia against Prussia-Hapsburg-Turkey, with Arab freedom in exchange for revolt.  In came the Sykes-Picot treason; four colonies: Palestine, Iraq, Syria-Lebanon, and a Jewish “homeland”.

The Ottoman Empire was muslim, the Western empires (including Italy in Libya from 1911), were secular, open to missionaries.  The Ottoman Empire was based on provinces, wilayat; the West constructed countries ridden by strong built-in fault-lines, very visible today; only viable under Western imperialism or Arab dictatorship.

The second, in 1952-69, Naguib-Nasser in Egypt to Gaddafi in Libya, was against Western imperialism.  The resource was their military. Eisenhower-Dulles condemned the English-French-Israel attack on Egypt, and in came the US-Israeli empire.  The attack on Libya came in 2011.

The third revolt, 2011-?, is against the US-Israeli empire.  The resource: unemployed students, suppressed huge, new, muslim groups.

Unlike the Ottomans and Western colonialists the US and Israel control Arab countries indirectly, based on military force and bribery, via autocratic and cleptocratic elite that are not condemned as long as they serve USA-Israel.  Algeria–the worst in the Arab world, with a quarter million killed since the elections with the Front Islamique de Salvation heading for victory were canceled–has the European Union turning its back to the atrocities.  The best in the Arab world is the neighbor, Morocco, with a wise Mohammed VI sensing that the time is right for basic change with constitution, referendum, elections.  He might inspire Saudi Arabia to enact the demands of their intellectuals.

The revolts have denounced dictatorship and bribery; knowing well the role of USA-Israel in bribing top Egyptian military, fighting for their privileges.  From Israel, deeply worried about that Camp David deal with Egypt, no concern for democracy has been heard.

But the USA, the champion of democracy, plays another game.  They are behind some of the training in nonviolence, originally adopted as a foreign policy tool (in Ukraine, Georgia, the colored revolutions) from the Otpor student uprising against Milosevic.  They admonish all autocrats to step down and leave.  Why?  No doubt, there is somewhere a belief in democracy; that people everywhere when given freedom will recognize the USA as their stronghold, and become supportive.

However, there is another dimension.  Autocracy rests on the military, hence on the state; and gets “commissions” from state monopolies.  The USA prefers privatization.  Democracy may be manipulated through media, and private enterprises through investment. Very important is the privatization of central banks for Western globalization of the financial markets (via Basel’s Bank of International Settlements multilateral clearing).  This applies to Iraq-Iran, Lebanon-Libya, Syria-Somalia-Sudan, seven major US targets.  Benghazi’s Transitional National Council-TNC privatized the central bank immediately. Washington feels that democrats may be more amenable than even US-sympathetic autocrats.

Yet this is further complicated by the fault-lines in Arab countries.  Democracy works fine for homogeneous Nordic countries with I-cultures but is very problematic for heterogeneous we-culture states with race, ethnicity, religion, modern-traditional-primitive divides (tribes), and geographical rivalries–in short Libya, a non democratic, unitary state.  Nor the rest of the seven above, nor others like Israel, typical, with democracy for Jews and an iron hand for Palestinians.

Nevertheless, combining the three solutions: federation within, confederation without with open borders, and local democracy may work, say, for Iraq.  That is what the Ottoman Empire was all about, so Turkey may feel called upon and no doubt will play a major role, with the AKP, the Justice and Development Party, as a model of islam with democracy.  But apart from the Kurds Turkey is homogenous relative to the others.

Islam, the Western obsession.  The West might ask how christians would react had they been overshadowed by modernizers, muslim or not, military or not.  A christian brotherhood, perhaps?  Coming out in the open when a revolt is on, fueling it?  And then adopting to others, maybe into some kind of enlightened, sensitive semi-democracy?

A US-Israel switch from autism to sensitivity would help greatly. Arabs want a better life, unattainable under elites more sensitive to US-Israel interests than to their own people.  Revolts will continue until US-Israel also accept a federation-confederation formula, with an Israeli-Palestinian federation (between a two-state and a one-state solution!), within a confederation of Israel with the five Arab neighbors from Lebanon to Egypt. A Middle East Community.  Within that formula the September 2011 Arab Spring in Tel Aviv could extend the concern for equality from themselves to their Arab neighbors.  And the region could wake up to a new set of rules, more Ottoman, less Western-US-Israel.  But with capitals everywhere, not only Istanbul.

A revolution, liberating both the oppressors and the oppressed.

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