August 4, 2012
NO AVOIDING THE eND:
The Arabs in transition : Finally the Arabs are responding to global winds of change. Not all, but all will in time (Ayman El-Amir, 8/02/12, Al Ahram)
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2012 7:30 AMThe paradigm of forced takeover of power away from the ballot box has changed, though. Clandestine military coups of the 1950s and 1960s have now been replaced by the power of mass protest, armed or unarmed. For the past 40 years, Arab autocrats learned that the armed forces were the key to forced change of the regime. Therefore, they isolated them, pampered them or appointed their close family members or trusted loyalists to positions of control. Now, the paradigm has significantly shifted in favour of the people. When the Egyptian military command, for example, intervened in the clashes between protesters and security forces on 28 January 2011, it did so not according to its pre-assigned role as Mubarak's last line of defence, but to protect protesters and the masses of the people, as well as state institutions. In Syria, Al-Assad's army commanders are defecting in droves to the side of the Syrian protesters.Ruling party propagandists and government-controlled media failed to persuade the impoverished masses of the people that they were living "the most splendid era of democracy" they have ever seen, in the words of Safwat El-Sherif, one of the closest confidantes of former president Mubarak, who is now on trial. Now the power of the people on the street has taken over revolutionary change, as was the case in Tahrir Square in Cairo, and the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Bahrain. For Gulf States with small populations, high-tech security mechanisms are more than adequate to control protests. Protesters still do not have the critical mass to mount a full-fledged revolution. During the mass protest at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, the joke went around Cairo that Bahrainis wanted to launch a million-man demonstration, but the total population was only 750,000. Could they borrow the rest from Egypt?Revolutionary change in the Gulf Arab States does not have to be violent -- a people against ruler confrontation. The problem is that rulers believe their people are wallowing in petro-gas and oil wealth, and the benefits deriving from them, like no other people in the world. However, as the Bible says, man does not live on bread alone. Fundamental reforms giving the people a wider role in shaping their future and the way they are ruled are largely lacking. Activists are demanding fundamental freedoms and human rights.The concept of constitutional monarchy was neither created overnight nor without suffering. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, nominally owns Great Britain, but the people, with an elected parliament and representative government, manage national wealth and all institutions that have developed over many years. However, the Queen cannot lease Scotland, sell the River Thames or enter into business deals for her own benefit. She, as a monarch, does receive benefits approved by the House of Commons. Would this be a far-fetched idea for the Gulf Arab states? There are, of course, sovereign funds from plush oil and gas earnings that are kept for "future generations", but is it not a one-man rule that controls everything? There are associated huge business interests, of course. But to what extent can these be guaranteed in the future, even if they are deposited in foreign banks, funds or invested in foreign businesses? And at what cost in conflict and bloodshed?The world is changing and the Arab region is, at long last, responding to these changes and to the principles that motivate the change. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore.