Monday, November 12, 2018

The Arab Lessons of the Arab Spring

I wish it were different, but I think this is the only smart take right now, and the one most in-line with American interests.

Until education, secularism, demographics, and culture in the Arab world return to a sustainable path, I don't think the world wants anything to do with a fully democratic Arab world.

Hasan Hasan has a great read over at The Atlantic;
If the autocrats lost control over the masses in 2011, the thinking goes, that was because they did not go far enough in their repression. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave some space to the Muslim Brotherhood, political activists, and critical media. Look what happened to him.

As unrest generated by the Arab Spring shifted power away from Arab republics to richer, more stable Gulf monarchies, leaders throughout the region dropped the pretense that they would ever bow, or bend, to the popular will—whether in the direction of more democracy or more extreme religiosity.

Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for example, declared in 2017: “We will not waste 30 years trying to deal with extremist ideas; we will eradicate them here and now.” In defense of moderation, he proposed simply stomping out religious radicals. (In American terms: Shock and awe rather than hearts and minds.) And MbS was probably using the term “extremist” conveniently; the Saudis have since designated as terrorist organizations certain religious groups, such as the International Union of Muslim Scholars, broadly perceived as mainstream.

Generally speaking, authoritarian countries seem more willing than ever before to disregard the desires of the Arab street. It is now an open secret that Gulf states have developed ties with Israel, in the absence of formal relations, including trade partnerships and security deals. Just last week, an Israeli minister toured Abu Dhabi, the national Israeli anthem was reportedly sung in Doha, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to Muscat. Such reports along with continued support for President Trump’s “deal of the century,” despite his administration’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, have enraged Arab populations.
"Enraged Arab populations." We know what that is, we see what that will do.

Would you rather deal with those gaggles, or these?
Of course there is a constituency for such high-handedness. Elites, secular nationalists, and ordinary people exhausted by or fearful of wars were euphoric following the rise of leaders such as Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and MbS. They are now banking on their success, convinced that any compromise will undo the “gains” made so far.
Speaking of Egypt;
In Egypt, the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and any form of dissent is the fieriest in nearly 50 years. Most Islamists and critics are either languishing in jail or living in exile. ... To Sisi and his supporters, harsh measures are acceptable because they have stabilized the country. Even Muslim Brotherhood leaders acknowledge that the campaign against it has been effective in the sense that it has been devastating, breaking the organization into multiple pieces. Precisely because crackdowns have worked, the regime and its supporters also back their continuation. Now that a final victory against the Muslim Brotherhood is within reach, why let up?
I wonder who helped give the Muslim Brotherhood a boost in Egypt about a decade ago...
A sign that the Obama administration is willing to publicly challenge Egypt's commitment to parliamentary democracy: various Middle Eastern news sources report that the administration insisted that at least 10 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's chief opposition party, be allowed to attend his speech in Cairo on Thursday.
The West should be humble in its efforts in that part of the world. Help those modernizing and secularizing leaders who emerge organically. Starve, ignore, and hobble retrograde leaders who promote externalizing their radicalism. Sometimes those can be the same people, but such is a culture that goes back to the dawn of human existence.

Whatever we do, we need to be quiet about it - and not the major player. Young, short-term players - as we are - do not usually come out on top vs. the old long-term players - as they are.

Young, long-term players - such as the Israelis - they are the exception, but you could argue they are only "young" players in the modern context. One could argue they are the oldest playing the longest long-term game of anyone.

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