Monday, August 15, 2011

The Young Generation Of Arab Rulers

By Mohammad el-Ashab
Around five years ago, a prominent American official carried a message to Rabat saying: watch out for the Syrian stubbornness. Back then, pressure had not yet built up on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He used to consider that the things he did not do constituted a test for the desire to boycott the past.
The Americans specifically used to believe that the young generation of Arab rulers – including King Mohammad VI in Morocco, King Abdullah II in Jordan, and Bashar al-Assad in Syria – are capable of entering the world of politics by gaining their people’s support instead of stepping into confrontations that would flare the fire of the Arab disputes up while maintaining the freeze of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.
What happened is that Morocco stepped out of the Sahara crisis and suggested a “no winner and no loser” solution. This is despite the fact that Morocco could have kept on coexisting with the repercussions of the regional dispute; and could have imposed its military control and its project of democratic merger for the dwellers of the desert governorates. However, it opted for politics that help in finding solutions with the hope that they might lead to something closer to a historic accord that would end the crisis.
Moreover, Jordanian Monarch King Abdullah II started a new journey on the harsh road of making a democracy that accepts difference and that allows all the political branches to produce some kind of a project which may not be a complete one, but which is capable of faltering away with a lesser amount of mistakes.
The exception is that President Bashar al-Assad did not translate the pullout of his forces from Lebanon into actions that give a priority to the domestic wager. He acted as if the pullout was nothing more but a redeployment subjected to the logic that preceded the imposing of international and regional pressures. Furthermore, when new changes knocked on the doors of many Arab capitals with unprecedented force, it seemed that someone was not listening to the knocks.
The new generation of rulers spoke with different languages and accents. Some realized that change is coming like powerful waves and that one must keep up with their direction so as to prevent them from growing even stronger as the stormy wind blows. Some others thought that they can swim against the current. Thus, the languages as well as the conclusions differed according to the hypotheses and their resulting outcomes.
Deeds rather than words are important. Between the use of the method of persuasion and conviction when defending this or that idea – this method starts with dialogue and does not stop at differences – or the use of excessive power in order to force the people on subjecting to a will in a non democratic and non legitimate manner: this is where the paradoxes and even the errors lie. A long time ago, it used to be said that ruling consists of wisdom. Meanwhile, some are still linking it to the control of people’s bodies and minds.
There is a direction that appeared through the early experiences of the new generation of rulers indicating that this generation does not cope with the concept of continuity. Indeed, the Moroccan king worked on leaving his touch through openness, namely by opening the eyes of the Moroccans to the major violations of Human Rights that characterized his father’s rule. As to King Abdullah II, he worked on improving his country’s records without the need for revealing the unsatisfactory shady areas. But President Bashar al-Assad flipped the equation and practiced the same violations that characterized his father’s term when dealing with the uprising of Hama.
The features of the road were lost between reverting to violence and its overuse against the peaceful protests, and responding to the logic of listening to the concerns of the Street. But the sure thing is that the British example points to the characteristics of the democratic state that is always capable of imposing the law without giving up on the principles and values relating to the respect of the citizens’ rights to protest and demonstrate.
There is not a single democratic country that likes the scenes of looting of commercial shops to be aired, and its poor citizens to go out and to expose the shortcomings of a system that offers no equal opportunities. Indeed, the major choices, which seemed to be the natural elements of the economic and political system, have grown so old to the extent that their flaws and their defects have been uncovered. However, and in order to reconsider the nature of these systems, there is a need for a new awareness that is undoubtedly being formed.
The problem of some Arab experiences is that the flaws do not appear when the democratic regime has used up its political, economic, and social targets. Rather, such flaws are revealed prior to the carrying out of democratic experiences. It is perhaps better for the Syrian regime to adapt to its counterparts, the new rulers, instead of using the bad stock of bankrupted experiences. The current events are nothing but an indication that it is now time to pay the bill for not listening to the pulse of the roaring Street.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 14/08/2011

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