Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring


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Why did the Arab Spring effect states differently? What accounts for these differences in outcome? This article seeks to address that very question.

Globally, no state is a “perfect democracy” but some are obviously closer and more exemplary than others. Democracy is multi-dimensional meaning that there are components therein, all of which are necessary for its sustenance.

Regionally, this is also true – that some states are more or less democratic than others. Of all the MENA states only Tunisia is considered a “successful” democracy. Both Tunisia & Egypt enjoy more developed institutions than Libya & Syria, for example. One might attribute development to geography & history, given Egypt has been more autonomous than other Arab counterparts, but this doesn’t apply across the board, given Tunisia was part of the Ottoman Empire while Egypt was not.

Why did revolution fail to break-out in Saudi Arabia?

Libya is also an oil-rich state, but it was left ravaged. Oil was not a stabilizing force in Libya.

Saudi Arabia has a notoriously strong security apparatus, one that is tied directly to the ruling family, the House of Saud. The same is true in Syria, where an Alawite-dominated military has direct links with the ruling Assad “clan”. However the major difference is that Saudi Arabia is supported by America, unlike Syria.

States which experienced military invasions endured the worst outcome of the Arab Spring, versus countries that maintained autonomy. Compare the violence in Yemen, Syria & Libya to Saudi, Egypt & Tunisia, and the claim carries weight.

This can be extended to Iraq & Afghanistan, invaded by the US.

But why then has America stood by Saudi Arabia & flip-flopped on Syria?

The US switched from mildly opposing the Syrian regime under Obama to supporting it tacitly under Trump. This underscores that US policy is not monolithic, and there are two forces contending, with one seeking further democratization & the other benefitting from authoritarian neoliberal (neocolonial) constructs such as the Saudi or Syrian state.

Perhaps the extent of political development and institutionalization in Arab states like Egypt prevented foreign countries from being able to influence the trajectory of the demonstrations, whereas thoroughly guarded states like Saudi Arabia & Syria with almost no degree of democratic institution were able to suppress without much attention. Not only does Egypt have a sizable minority, it has institutional provisions & a political infrastructure which make it less vulnerable to chaos. Clearly Egypt is no democracy, and has in fact continued as an authoritarian state, but it also experienced peaceful revolutions, ousted two leaders. A mere change in the face of executive leadership is reassuring to the people about at least some sense of accountability and connect. This is arguably the result of the political infrastructure of the state which has democratic features such as separation of powers & independent judiciary.

Ultimately than it can be argued that while culturally Saudi Arabia and Syria are different, they are politically underdeveloped to a comparable degree, with few to no provisions in place meant to separate powers of the state or establish a mild sense of accountability among officials.

Thus the failure of the Arab Spring to overwhelm Saudi Arabia can be traced to the US decision to stand by the government, despite its authoritarian character.

If the neoliberal face of the Middle East is to be defeated, it must also be defeated in the US, meaning Trump must be replaced with a Democrat who is not at all inclined towards authoritarian governments.

Perhaps this why there was such a coordinated effort by various authoritarian governments across the world to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump, who is more or less sympathetic to authoritarianism than his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton. Autocrats have no consistent agenda but self-preservation at any expense, so coordinating on this delicate issue even with “enemies” occurred.

Globalization has rendered the world inextricably linked no matter how much anti globalist nationalists tout otherwise. Since America is the world’s most powerful state, it is only sensible that changes in its domestic politics would have ripple effects, especially in the Middle East where it has been involved so long & the politics are so volatile.

Is it safe to conclude then that the chapter of revolution has not yet ended in the region?

Perhaps it will be easier to tell in 2020, unless of course Trump doesn’t make it that far.

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The American Nightmare 2016: Are We Going to Hit the Snooze Button?


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Donald Trump is not fit to run the United States of America – or anything in this cosmic dimension.

And this idiot and all of his followers will continue to reveal how ignorant they are about politics.

I do not believe the Russians are colluding with Donald Trump because the Russians have class believe it or not.

The problem here is American media and our cultural naivety which comes from our youth.

We are a young country.

But to be frank politics is much older than America.

Think Aristotle.

American politics have become hollywood. Yes, the Democrats MUST defeat Republicans.

But please believe that both Democrats and Republicans have a tendency towards denial and mischief in domestic and international politics.

Hillary MUST win.

America IS the greatest nation in the world. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have lessons to learn ourselves.

Time to look in the mirror.

Democracy is not perfect. In some parts of the world it probably won’t work. In itself it can become dangerous too. Democracy has enabled America, as well as other countries to do terrible things and inflict great harm on the world. That isn’t to chastise it completely – but one thing is for sure, America has exploited its own democracy by denying rights to its own historically, and to others internationally in today’s world.

Accusations by Trump that Putin is involved is theatrical at best. This man like most Americans are running on unrefined fuel. Nouveau-riche politics if you will.

American politicians and their constituents are naive – I can’t tell if it is genuine ignorance or exploitative mischief. The Disneyland narrative must come to an end though. Americans need to wake up from this ideal liberal la-la land and grasp the complexity of international politics and cultural distinctions.

People are calling Trump a Soviet infiltrator.

The Soviet Union does not exist any more.

The Soviet Union was a radical communist anti-right wing commune of states – their biggest enemy was Hitler, after the West. Why would they stand with Trump? By allying itself with Trump would Russia sabotage American interests? But why then is Russia cooperating with America in Syria?

What makes this murky is the US’ inconsistent role. It has an identity crisis – choosing between being the greatest nation in the world; and being a meddling nation that exploits others. This became a phenomenon largely after Britain convinced the US to become the world’s policeman during and after WWII. If the US can learn to cooperate with others peace and security can ensue. But by the looks of it, left and right-wing naivety is threatening this possibility.

Donald Trump is a national – international – security threat. The media and the global neoconservative agenda led by ultra-right-wing across various countries are together colluding to pin nations against each other.

Populism is threatening democracy which suggests that popular sovereignty isn’t the only variable for democracy – there are many. And one of these becomes threatened, it appears none of them will be possible. Look at Turkey for example – Erdogan, a democratically elected leader, began trampling on democratic rights, and thus the military, which historically overthrows leaders who drift to far in either direction on the political spectrum, stepped in though without success – also unprecedented.

In America is has never happened that such a coup has taken place. Unless you consider JFK’s assassination a coup – but that might be a conspiratorial stretch. He was certainly drifting from the American political norm though. Let’s hope that a coup isn’t necessary to stop Donald Trump and that Hillary can do it democratically – even though the DNC themselves indulged some undemocratic methods by alienating Bernie Sanders from achieving the nomination which he evidently deserved.

Let’s hope Hillary wins. More importantly, let’s hope the United States as a whole can pivot from its half-century long trend of foreign interventionism; replace it with respect for sovereignty; a rejection of populism and neoliberalism/neoconservatism or simply put – neo-imperialism; recognition of cultural distinctions; and a promotion of cooperative political, economic and social relations.

This might have to see the UN become the global spectator; with the US leading the free world; and cooperating with other global and regional powers to ensure prosperity, stability and peace.

Hillary is more likely to take us in this direction even if it means a slow, dragging process. It is better than no process at all, via the GOP’s alternative.

What is responsible for American prosperity and individual liberty is not ONLY popular-rule – in fact it was the opposite – the elitist mentality of the founding fathers who understood that individual rights are often compromised not only by absolute rulers but equally by mob-rule – or mass-mindedness. Furthermore, the American capitalist, market-economy could not have flourished without a robust, intricately woven state-system that works with the economy without compromising its fluidity. If you read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, the so-called biblical canon of Western capitalism, towards the end he suggests that unfettered capitalism cannot exist. This sort of anarchical individualism threatens individualism altogether. Furthermore, it threatens the international community of states; and historical cultures which seek to be preserved.

It is time for the American neoliberal nightmare to come to an end, so that the real, American Dream – the kind that speaks of the Gatsbys, the JFKs, the Sean Carters & the Michael Jacksons can roam free once again.

Will we wake up from the American nightmare – or will we hit the snooze button on the alarm and fall back into our deeply dormant abyss?

The Terrorist [Artwork]


The Terrorist

Art by Nermine Hammam

Executively Produced by KRIKOS aka Danny Krikorian

Presented by Colours of the Culture

Listen to “The Terrorist” and the full album “Sufi in the West” below:

Who is responsible for Istanbul attack?


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On June 28th, a group of suicide bombers conducted an attack on Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport, killing 41 people and injuring 239. As the world mourns the tragedy, investigators seek to bring justice to the perpetrators. But who is responsible? And Why?

Is it Daesh (ISIS)?

Is it PKK?

These are both valid suggestions, based on the history of violence among both groups.

Based on the PKK’s terrorism tactic, the attack in Istanbul does not necessarily fit their profile. According to news sources, though unconfirmed, the PKK usually target Turkish nationals. The conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government surrounds the Kurdish question of identity and statehood in the Middle East. The Kurds have been without an autonomous country and do not enjoy equal rights in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region where Kurds enjoy a degree of nationalism but it is far from being a nation-state.

Why would Daesh or ISIS commit the attacks?

Turkey has been supporting the armed insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad since its inception. The majority of Daesh or ISIS fighters are not Syrian but foreign nationals, from Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and Central Asia, which raises the question as to whether this a so-called civil war between state and opposition or an international conflict between states. Is Syria a proxy conflict waged between global powers? Is this the continuation of the so-called “Great Game”?

If Turkey has stood against the Syrian government, thereby granting ISIS leverage directly or indirectly, then why would such an attack take place?

Since the emergence of ISIS, and the corresponding terrorist attacks globally which have victimized France, America and Turkey to name just a few, the political dynamic of the Syrian conflict has shifted. The ouster of Assad, like that of Mubarak, Morsi, Ben Ali, Abdullah Saleh, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, was originally argued as the procurement of stability and justice in the Middle East. The outcomes have proven otherwise. The tyrannical leadership of these autocrats is undoubtable, but is there another force enabling this instability to begin with?

As a result of ISIS’ apparent indiscriminate violence, fundamentalism and fickleness, Turkey has, like the US, altered its position internationally. Just last week, Turkey announced reconciliation efforts with its historical arch-rivals, Israel and Russia. Russia has arguably maintained the Syrian government since its intervention.

Could this rapprochement have provoked backlash from ISIS against Turkey? Were these two gestures of international rapprochements with ISIS’ nemeses, Israel & Russia viewed as a form of betrayal by the terror group?

As investigations continue, emerging facts will likely give this blurry picture some lucidity.

But a shifting world order is evidentially not as far off as one might have expected, particularly after England’s vote to leave the EU.

As the migrant crisis continues, and Middle Eastern instability intensifies, one might ask why foreign powers have prioritized their ambitions over practical politics.

One cannot speak of justice in the Middle East while neglecting the bedrock of human security – sovereignty.

Until this is realized, fanaticism and instability will continue to overshadow justice in the Middle East.

 

 

Still Under Occupation: The Middle East & the Struggle for Dignity


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Time and time again, we hear about the causes of injustice and instability in the Middle East.

There are about four main causes offered from analyses on this region. Each of them point to internal factors, though somehow quite different from one another.

But none of them recognize the possibility that instability is not a domestic ailment.

How could democratic institutionalism evade the Middle East for so long?

Here too, an anthology of theories has been written.

Getting into all the explanations would require too much attention, a luxury that modern high speed internet cannot afford to its consumers.

The main argument echoed in the halls of western political debate rooms blames ruthless dictators and Islamic crazies.

A list of more intricate explanations exist too.

None of them point to external factors.

But none of them can truly explain the distinctive features of the Middle East that make it lag significantly behind other regions in terms of democratic reform and political stability, like for example Latin America, where similar conditions exist: colonial history & resource abundance.

Why has America, and before it Europe, exercised endless security initiatives in the Middle East since the end of World War II? The US and Israel remain the only two occupying forces in the Middle East.

Research supports the logic that suicide terrorism is linked to foreign occupation.

US interventionism is not beneficial to the US nor to the international community. Violations of sovereignty are the primary cause of global instability. Whether or not democracy should evolve in a particular country is a domestic issue. Furthermore, cultural values must be considered to determine whether democratic political institutions can endure. Albeit, by injecting itself in the affairs of other countries, a US foreign policy of interventionism incites radicalism, paralyzes political development, and violates universal principles of self-determination and sovereignty. It was a the democratically elected leader of Iran, President Mossadegh, who was ousted in a CIA-led coup d’etat, which produced the mess that is radicalism and sectarianism today in the Middle East. World powers have played a hypocritical role in the region, loaning aid to authoritarian dictatorships and Islamic radicals simultaneously (Saddam & al Qaeda, for example), pinning two counterintuitive initiatives against one another – neocolonialism in plain-sight.

If democracy is in fact possible in the Middle East, its chances of seeing the light of day are being dimmed by the political hubris of world powers, namely the US.

 

The World to Come – Volume I: An International Theory of Politics


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Cultural relativism and constructivism are two theories, one sociological the other political, that help us understand international politics from a different perspective.

We challenge the idea of absolutes but we also accept the traditions which develop over time as part of human social culture, or constructs.

There are elements of all philosophy, from realism and liberalism, which are embraced. But ideas such as the universalism of capitalism and democracy are challenged. Furthermore, I seek to explain all global injustice as a result of the exploitation of human insecurities by global political elites. There are remote, isolated incidents of craziness, but the trend suggests that, most human suffering is caused by the decisions of political elites to disregard the cultural distinctions and sovereignty between states.

Imperial overreach is practiced by many states. But the argument here is that the culture of capitalism embraced in the West, particularly in America, in the post-20th century especially, enables the likelihood for international agendas of domination.

While hegemony and power are innate, domination and violations of sovereignty are not. While America struggles to establish its identity as leader of the free world, individuals within America wish to export this freedom to countries where religious sensitivities are prioritized over democratic values and individual rights.

Regions of the world with rich indigenous histories and religious sensitivities, like Latin America, Central & South Asia, and the Middle East, are not conducive to democracy.

In the twentieth century, communism and nazism were viewed as threats to democracy – but had neither the English nor the Americans been aggressively imperialistic, democracy itself would not have been threatened. Imperialism, the desire to expand beyond one’s natural borders, is the cause of ideological fanaticism and political instability, plain and simple.

The frequency of violence and radicalization cannot be viewed as a cause – but rather the effect of another cause – violation of sovereignty. The moral indignation, humiliation and socio-economic depravity resulting from foreign occupation causes political instability and violence to ensue.

The result is terrorism and vulnerability.

That is precisely why Islamic radicalism has become a “thing”. While it is mostly due to the media’s biased coverage, the main reason why Muslims are vulnerable to radicalization is the social and economic inequalities in the regions in which they live. These inequalities are assumed to be the direct cause of governmental shortcomings, but upon closer examination, the complicity of foreign powers, namely the US and Europe, in destabilizing the region, becomes far too apparent.

That is why petty, underdeveloped initiatives are toppling leaders are viewed with such skepticism and distrust, especially in the Middle East. These initiatives have ulterior motives, driven more by agendas of destabilization and maintaining control than by the moral motives of human rights. Such is evidenced by double-dealing from world powers like the US, Russia and Europe in the Middle East and Central Asia, funding radicals on one hand, and putting puppets into power on the other.

It becomes that much more difficult to believe that democracy will solve the problem of instability in the aforementioned regions of the world.

And attempts at spreading democracy in these regions are as mischievous as the USSR’s campaign for spreading communism. This neoconservatism is not very different.

Power is perhaps an innate feature of mankind, but war & instability is not, contrary to conventional theory in politics.

If countries are forced to contain their imperial potential, stability will ensue. But this entails tackling illusions of our history. This entails confronting the assumptions we have about international relations today.

We must learn to appreciate the West’s liberty – but the West must learn to appreciate the East’s cultural heritage.

Only through such self-reevaluation can stability be possible.

The Fate of the Middle East


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The fate of Middle Eastern conflicts is that they are long and bloody.

More recently, they have been immortal.

The Palestine issue has almost turned into a hopeless cause in which activists are smeared as promoters of violence. The losses suffered by Arabs, while Israelis and Americans gain footing, is tough to look beyond. How does one have hope beyond all these drawbacks?

In 2003, Iraq was invaded. Ever since, terrorism has risen sharply becoming a norm.

Then the Arab uprisings occurred, and no real progress came about. In fact, the Middle East is arguably in worse condition than it was before 2003, whether it is temporary or transitional.

None of the world’s major powers have done anything to reduce the suffering and destruction – but they certainly have invested resources into protecting their interests and initiatives. As I watch videos upon videos of suffering Syrians, both inside and outside of their country, I become more disenchanted with the Syrian government’s lack of accountability, morality and disregard. Where is the empathy? The obedience of many Arabs to the tyrannical cults of personality which rule their societies isn’t that mind-boggling to me, only because here in America, we study things like the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. I see too much suffering happening to my people.

But if Palestinians are suffering the same fate, and have been, for the last 50 years, at the hands of a so-called democratic Jewish state, who am I to blame? Americans and Europeans are quick to point their fingers at Arab heads of state – but in Palestine and Iraq, conditions have been worsened not by heads of state but also by foreign occupiers.

The sense of distrust among Syrians, and Arabs altogether towards any attempt to “police” the Middle East should not be so difficult to grasp – though it is for many Americans.

But why must ordinary people suffer at the hands of political officials? The levels of political, economic and social control in Arab states is beyond apprehension. If we cannot trust democracies or authoritarians, we have nobody to go, but ourselves. In doing that, menaces like ISIS and al Qaeda emerge.

The narrative in America is that the Syrian people are suffering because their government is stubborn. Like many governments outside of the Occident, authoritarianism is rampant in the Middle East. Syria is one of the examples. With a notorious secret police service, haunting tales about political prisoners and disappearances, horrifying accounts of state terror, Syria is a prime example in fact. The state’s inability to accept a free society that enables economic mobilization, has led to an economic disaster in which tribal ideologies are sought for survival. In this scenario, ISIS is the shadow of Assad. Neither can exist without the other. Would ISIS wain with Assad’s end? Would the specter and appeal of Islamic radicalism lose ground because of a lack of justification?  In this case, the Syrian government is inciting sectarianism and extremism.

But this theory rests largely on the assumption that authoritarianism is the cause of the problem in the Middle East. If that were the case, it would be authoritarianism, not Israeli apartheid and occupation, which subjugates Palestinians. But maybe an end to authoritarianism, would also imply an end to Israeli authoritarianism. In this case, the menace to the Arab and Islamic world is not colonialism, but rather, authoritarianism – a domestic sentiment of political hubris practiced by political elites, whether they are Zionist, Alawite, Saudi or Shia.

In another scenario, global powers are playing tug-o-war for control of regions like the Middle East, Latin America, Central & Southeast Asia. These powers include the US, Europe, Russia & China. Here, the cause of instability is imperial overstretch, violating state sovereignty, stirring animosity and violence. If nation-states like the US did not seek superiority but rather economic development, the world could experience a state of co-existence. Culturally, the West is more inclined to domination. As a result, the East responded with their own mechanism for resisting imperialism – communism. Here, the instigator is the Anglo-Saxon civilization, which seeks a level of exploitation of others. But if all nation-states sought containment, there would be less imbalance and instability. There is a level of insecurity among the Anglo-Saxons in which they cannot accept a level-playing field.

Both scenarios are compelling. Others would point to less human based factors, like oil abundance or environmental factors. Some analysts argue the main cause of instability in the Middle East is cultural – Islam is unique.

All of the arguments have some truth to them but which is most compelling and which has the most support?

Since the end of WWI, the Arab & Muslim world became more vulnerable than ever. That is because the Ottoman Empire officially collapsed, withering away into a fragmented and divided states, leaving them vulnerable to colonial domination, which is exactly what happening via Sykes-Picot in the Middle East. In the 20th century, the West dominated the East through covert operations. But in the 21st century, this manifested through direct invasions, such as the 2003 War in Iraq. Then came the war in Libya. Now the US is considering its options in Syria and Yemen. It seems hard to believe, that the removal of Saddam Hussein did anything better for the Iraqis than his initial takeover to begin with. It could mean that Iraqis have to wait another hundred years before their country is able to function democratically and resist destabilization – but is this possible with a constant threat of foreign intervention?

All of these factors must be considered.

Personally I feel that because destabilization in the Middle East increased sharply after 2003 indicates the influence of foreign intervention. Furthermore, covert operations by the US to overthrow even democratically elected leaders further enflamed the fire of radicalism. It would seem then that the argument which points to foreign intervention in the Middle East, or occupation, as the main driver of terrorism and instability, to be the most compelling.

America has pushed for democracy in its foreign policy while not practicing it fully domestically. Furthermore, its pressures for regime change have only revealed its ulterior motives in meddling in the affairs of usually more vulnerable states. Only through containment of the US’ imperial ambitions can the world see a reduction of Russian assertiveness, the appeal of Islamic radicalization and global instability.