Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:44 pm Post subject: The Middle East's "Berlin Wall" Moment.
What's happening all across the Middle East and North Africa reminds me of the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989 and the subsequent revolutions that finally brought to a close the corrupt dictatorships of Eastern Europe. The turmoil started in Tunisia, it has overthrown a regime in Egypt and looks set to remove several long-serving despots from Algeria all the way to Iran and beyond.
It would be naive to believe that external forces are not involved. I'm sure they are: Egypt, for example, is the second highest aid recipient of the United States, including military aid; Tunisia and Algeria have deep French connections; the ties of Jordan, Bahrain and others to the West, and to the United States especially, are well known.
Does this mean that the Obama Administration is directing traffic? No, although I'm sure they are not inactive. Social media is playing a role as are Arab TV networks, but this is much too synchronized to be purely coincidental. Is Saudi Arabia next? Jordan? Syria? Kuwait? Why not China?
I suppose it doesn't matter if it's orchestrated or spontaneous. The point is that long-suffering citizens are rising up against brutal and ineffective dictators. Democracy is always a good thing because it allows people to dream and hope for a better future, forces leaders to be accountable and takes away an effective recruiting tool for terrorists.
The destruction of the Berlin Wall did not solve Eastern Europe's problems. Europe is also not the Middle East: traditions and cultures are different, and democracy means different things to different people. So Western-style democracy is not going to flourish in Egypt or Bahrain tomorrow.
However, there is little doubt that a new day is dawning in the region. The question is: Will Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Algerians and others now seize the opportunity and fight for democratic institutions and the rule of law, or are they going to let one brutal regime be replaced by another? I hope for the former, but the realist in me suspects that we might see the latter, at least in the near term.
You may be right in the sense that the days of middle-east dictators may be coming to a close. However, the fingerprints of foreign powers aren't on these events. The US gives a lot of aid to Egypt as a part of the Camp David deal, and it obviously doesn't buy much influence.
The fingerprints you ought to look for are those of the Ayotollahs. I see no evidence, other than the reportage of media people, that says these demonstrations are about Democracy.
The increase in food commodity prices probably has more to do with bringing things to a head.
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