Friday, March 04, 2011

We saw the Arab revolutions coming

By Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's Director General

(extract & comment):

"On February 11, the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt, Al Jazeera faced a welcome dilemma: Scenes of elation were playing out not just in Cairo but throughout the region, and even with our vast network of journalists, we found it difficult to be everywhere at once. From North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, Arabs were celebrating the reclamation of their self-confidence, dignity and hope.

The popular revolutions now sweeping the region are long overdue. Yet in some ways, they could not have come before now. These are uprisings whose sons and daughters are well educated and idealistic enough to envision a better future, yet realistic enough to work for it without falling into despair. These revolutions are led by the Internet generation, for whom equality of voice and influence is the norm. Their leaders' influence is the product of their own effort, determination and skill, unconstrained by rigid ideologies and extremism.

It is now clear to all that the modern, post-colonial Arab state has failed miserably, even in what it believed it was best at: Maintaining security and stability. Over the decades, Arab interior ministers and police chiefs devoted enormous resources and expertise to monitoring and spying on their own people. Yet now, the security machineries in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have disintegrated in short order, while the rest of the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall.

These revolutions have exposed not just the failure of traditional politicians but also the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of the old Arab elites. Those elites not only attempted to control their own people, but also sought to shape and taint the views of news media in the region and across the world."

This article first appeared in The Washington Post then Al Jazeera's website.


"...while the rest of the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall"

In Syria, the government has attempted to buy time and pre-empt street protests by bribing millions of government employees (including in particular the security services) with massive pay rises that can only result in higher inflation and worsening conditions for the rest of the population.

The regime certainly does see the writing on the wall but believes it can nip any rebellion in the bud and outsmart the population. Over the last 40 years, it has been successful by systematically eliminating opponents and applying the Chinese model of alternating between strong repression and milder repression. The result has been a hollowing out of the nation of basic ingredients for real economic, technological and cultural progress. Revolution will eventually come but unfortunately it will be bloodier, uglier and more protracted than the Libyan one.

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