PhD Proposal: Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring


 

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Research Questions, Hypotheses & Variables:

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

In this research, I extend “Wimmer et al’s” model of ethnic conflict & exclusion to include ethno-religious groups in the Middle East. Ample literature has been written on the consequences of minority rule, especially in the Middle East, but there is little research on ethno-religious exclusion as the source of national instability. The typical variables considered are foreign intervention, religiosity or authoritarianism. My argument is that some states are more or less politically developed than others, and as such, exhibit a more sophisticated system that at the very least represents the majority ethnic fabric of the nation-state. Exclusive states tend to be less developed politically, and as such disenfranchise ethnic majorities leading to more instability.

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Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring


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Why did the Arab Spring affect 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 then 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.

A Neo-imperial Menace – The Great Game for the Middle East


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A comparative study of Syria & Iraq wars, makes it evident that the cause of instability is not authoritarianism, nor radicalism in either of these states, and the entire ME region.

Rather these are symptoms of a greater menace inciting them – neo-imperialism.

Enough with associative-thinking  – ‘this has to be true because of this.’

We don’t need Putin to be boogieman in order to vilify a US president.

Trump & the GOP that created him are war criminals, racists & rabid, hawkish interventionists.

With or without Putin.

Even Egypt’s case of the ‘Arab Spring’ was arguably a direct rejection of neo-imperial vision of a colonial-outpost in the Middle East.

Democracy may be the end-goal even in the Middle East – but democracy is impossible without sovereignty. Democracy has neither been achieved in Iraq or Syria. In one case, an authoritarian was overthrown, the other, preserved. Both cases resulted in utter chaos, unprecedented terrorism and religious radicalization. This implies the specter is foreign intervention, not domestic.

Sovereignty is a precondition for political development. One does not need to be a ‘political scientist’ or expert to understand that simple notion.

The cases of Bahrain, Yemen & Egypt serve as controls for other purported variables that may be influencing the outcome of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Bahrain indicates that while Sunni-Shia hatreds are strong – they are not sufficient to incite a full-fledged civil war along sectarian lines. In Egypt, the political climate made it apparent that radicalism was exploiting any attempt at political development, contrary to the claim that reduced authoritarianism might mitigate religious fundamentalism. Finally, the case of Yemen indicates the double-standard exhibited by interventionists in the region – namely the US & Europe, who on one end funnel arms and finances to prop up dictators such as in Yemen; & in others devote the same efforts to toppling them.

Libya too, like Iraq, demonstrates the vulnerability of a nation without a state.

These are all indications that the primary menace to peace, stability and progress in the Middle East is foreign intervention, or neo-imperialism.

Ultimately, a truly democratic movement – the future of the Middle East, depends as much on internal efforts at deinstitutionalizing & wholly dismantling authoritarianism as it does on mitigating foreign support for these very institutions. Only then, can global hegemonies like Russia, America & China be kept at bay regarding any excessive ambitions in the Middle East and beyond (Latin America, Africa, Central & Southeast Asia).

Only through unity of indigenous cultures and nation-states can regions afflicted with imperialism overcome & develop. Dignity, prosperity, culture & innovation are best preserved under these conditions.

Who Partakes in Political Violence?


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Terrorism is a tactic adopted by particular groups for a political objective. The individuals that partake in this violence often exhibit common characteristics. One of these characteristics is impoverishment (Lee 2011). In parts of the world where state capacity to serve the public is low, terrorist group participation is more likely. In other words, these individuals come from poor backgrounds. But contrarily, individuals from higher economic classes, also tend to be involved. This suggests that the middle class is least likely to join in, while the lower middle and upper class are more vulnerable (Kavanagh 2011).

On the other hand, terrorism has a different motive. In this case, terrorism is analyzed from the individual perspective, versus the structural perspective. Concepts like emotion and humiliation are considered here to be powerful motivators towards violence. The underlying belief is that, particularly in the Islamic world, a sense of humiliation drives individuals to terror. This humiliation stems from cultural factors such as shame-based traditions as much as it does from a history of subordination to outsiders such as Europe and America, through arrangements like Sykes-Picot. Humiliation can be exacerbated by internal inequalities within nation-states (Fattah & Fierke 2009). Perhaps a less romanticized perspective argues that existential factors like desire and glory motivate individuals among other factors that are political to engage in terrorism (Cottee et al 2011).

The most compelling argument seems to focus on the political orientation of terrorism through the individual lens. This is because it considers the cultural dimension of politics which drives individuals to retaliation or aggression. Social factors like poverty and authoritarianism cannot be separated from the external powers at play, and their influence historically and in today’s world on regions where terrorism is most prevalent. Equally, we cannot ignore the complicity of national governments in worsening conditions and enabling terrorism.

 

Cottee, Simon and Keith Hayward. 2011. “Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34: 963-986

Fattah, Khaled and Fierke, K.M. 2009. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in The Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15(1): 67-93

Kavanagh, J. (2011). Selection, Availability, and Opportunity: The Conditional Effect of Poverty on Terrorist Group Participation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55(1), 106-132.

Lee, A. (2011). Who Becomes a Terrorist? Poverty, Education, and the Origins of Political Violence . World Politics , 203-245.

Does Democracy Hurt the Arabs?


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We long for an Arab glory that has not existed for some time. We have been swept under the rug by nouveau riche politicians and faux-pas muslims trafficking in our religion. Institutional madness has convinced our people that western customs are our own. What happened? Aside from military domination, we have lost our unity, as an Arab people.

If we regard the Arab nation as one – not necessarily ignoring cultural and linguistic distinctions or political borders but, at least, in terms of political, social and economic unity – then we can argue that Israel is an apartheid state in the Arab World.

Furthermore, the Arabs are a linguistic group. This makes them less ideological or religious in political nature than the Israelis. But since the establishment of Israel and subsequent post-colonial occupations of the Middle East and Arab World by foreign powers, namely the US, violence and extremism have become the norm.

Discrimination in Israel against Palestinians and Arabs is evident too.

The arbitrary creation of Israel, violating Arab self-determination and sovereignty, must be considered the root cause of instability and extremism in the region.

Israel’s creation was a mere continuation of European colonialism. How can we discuss a “democratic” Israel which suppresses not only Arab Jews and Palestinians in the remaining territories, but a country built out of ignorance of Arab self-determination. The disaster created by WWII certainly posed a dilemma for Jews, but do two wrongs make a right?

American incursions in the ME are too continuations of the relentless superiority complex of the West in global politics. Unable to contain itself, western democracy is spreading its tentacles around the globe.

Democracy works in the West. It doesn’t in the Far or Near (Middle) East. That’s due to culture. It doesn’t imply democracy is wrong, but rather it is not absolute or universal. In other words, neoconservatism is defunct. Democracy must contain expansive ambitions otherwise it can function as an imperial agent.

What we must recognize is the following. Democracy won’t solve the Middle East as much as has yet to solve the problem for minorities in the West. We assume two things, that democracy is superior, and that it is applicable to the Middle East, and that the Arab World needs democracy to solve its instability. On the contrary, the legacy of democracy is an entrenched colonialism. The Arab World is struggling for unity against foreign interventionism. It, the Arab nation, must set aside its religious differences, at least for the sake of preserving peace. Borders and customs must be respected, but the Arab nation must be united in the face of foreign hegemonies claiming we need them or their policing.

That goes for America and Israel.

Netanyahu’s Election Speech Hypocrisy


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Since Israel is more of an apartheid than a democracy, it is becoming increasingly difficult for western democracies like the US and Europe to continually vouch for the Jewish state.

The Obama Administration has certainly broken from the traditions of its predecessors and perhaps the entire tradition of American politics by even SLIGHTLY suggesting a rift in relations between the US & Israel.

The underlying reality that Israel is an unjust entity resonates with the disenfranchised communities of United States, especially the African-American population, which only 30 years ago were granted the right to vote.

Largely disenfranchised socio-economically, African-Americans make up the majority of prisoners incarcerated in the US. The reality that African-Americans were only granted the right to vote 30 years ago cannot be understated in this context. Poverty, violence and disenfranchisement produce the kinds of demographics we see in the US today, with regards to the huge discrepancy in economic equality between White and Non-White Americans. Similarly, in Israel, the Arab and Palestine population endures the same levels of injustice. This is not to diminish either sides peculiarity or suffering but rather to reveal the ties between the forces responsible for injustice in the Middle East and injustices here in the US. Our attention is constantly being diverted by the media as it portrays Americans seperately from the rest of the world, the irony being in that the US is the most heavily involved country in foreign affairs in the entire world.

Islamophobia and racism are tools of the same political forces. That is why when Netanyahu made his racist comments regarding Arab-Israeli citizens just to harbor the election victory, it comes as no surprise. Similarly, US officials and police authorities spout racist comments so as to discourage and perpetuate suppression of African-American rights.

Furthermore, Israel’s hypocrisy is revealed in Netanyahu’s pathetic post-election victory apology for his racist comments, so as to appease the Israeli “left” and the West. He did not fail to make the following comment after his so-called apology:

“I think, similarly, that no element outside the state of Israel should intervene in our democratic processes.”

Was it not Netanyahu who intervened in US politics by speaking to Congress without consulting a bi-partisan coalition?

Hypocrites. But we’re used to it.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32026995