Monday, January 10, 2011

From The Arabian Gulf To The Atlantic Ocean

By Abdullah Iskandar
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 09/01/2011

From Yemen on the Arabian Gulf to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean, through Iraq, the Middle East, Sudan and Egypt, major events are emerging. And it seems as if those events that are invading Arab countries all at once are distant and unrelated to each other. Each of them could have its reasons and internal motives, as well as its own dynamic and outward appearances. Yet their coinciding in this manner makes it likely for them to have common factors, one of their major manifestations being the modern Arab state reaching its fated predicament, after undergoing a series of relapses and meeting with failure at every level, thus leading citizens in any of those countries to lose the national bond they had with their state and driving them to regress into pre-state forms of expression, based on shrinking back to their primitive cells and to violence.

There is indeed a common denominator between the Al-Qaeda ambush in Yemen, the infighting in Iraq, the past and postponed civil war in Lebanon, the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, the secession of Southern Sudan, and the popular and violent demonstration in both Tunisia and Algeria, and before that in Morocco.

That common denominator is the breakdown of communication between national states and their citizens. Indeed, neither is power in these countries the power of a state, nor do citizens feel that they are the citizens of such states.

This is due to the fact that the two sides of the equation have both abandoned what the state represents in terms of legislation for equality, equal chances and guarantees of a decent life. Power has shrunk back to the primitive cells of rulers. Such rulers have reduced the state to their region or to their sect, by virtue of holding power. And they have reduced their region and their sect to their family – thus exposing the country to all forms of corruption, favoritism and persecution. A small segment of the population has therefore grown wealthy at the expense of the remaining citizens. And when citizens feel that they hold some kind of strength, they do not hesitate to use it against those who are in power or against other citizens.

Thus matters reach the current predicament, which a temporary resolution may relieve. Yet such a predicament will soon repeat itself, perhaps in a more violent manner.

There are those who wish for the conflicts in every Arab country to be the products of the “conspiracy”, and of the known culprits, international Zionism, Israel, the West and the United States. Those referred to as the “enemies of the nation” may benefit from these conflicts, which allow them to interfere further in order to preserve their interests. But the question remains about the core of the failure of the modern Arab state, making conflicts erupt that are later exploited by “enemies”.

Let us then anger those “enemies” by rethinking the meaning of the fortified state and the fortified citizen. Not like President Omar Al-Bashir has, announcing that he wishes to implement Islamic law in the North in order to anger those who oppose him. Indeed, making use of religion in political matters, as the ruling party in Khartoum has done, has been one of the many major reasons for making unity with the South unattractive. Nor in the way the ruling regime in Algeria has, holding 150 billion dollars as monetary reserves at a time when is unable to resolve the country’s chronic housing problem, not to mention its failure to prepare students for the job market and its inability to create new jobs for college graduates whose numbers are increasing every year. And certainly not in the way the ruling regime in Tunisia has, compensating for its failure to resolve the economic and social crisis by strengthening the grip of security against protesters.

One can expand on the enumeration of models from Yemen, Egypt and others, where the ruling regime’s prime concern has become how to confront instances of domestic opposition with various forms of political and security force. And when rulers want to undertake political reform, the first thing they do is make themselves rulers for life. That is what has happened in Tunisia, before that in Egypt and in Syria, perhaps later in Algeria, and finally in Yemen. All of this being accompanied by further corruption, misuse of state funds, favoritism and persecution.

And with chronic crises erupting in those Arab countries, can one conclude that the current failed state has reached the phase of the beginning of its end? Perhaps, but what is tragic is that the end of this phase does not indicate the beginning of a more radiant one.

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