Last week was so tumultuous that some of us rediscovered TV. The Middle East & North African region has come to life and is now the new Mecca for news producers. Revolution, people/mob power, state sponsored killing sprees, toppling of established power structures and the re-affirmation of the right to protest against the ignominies faced by the common people was staple fare.
What is needed now is a perhaps an analysis into the forces that prompted this?
Some commentators have linked this to the domino effect of Tunisia & Egypt where people tasted success. History has provided many examples of this effect. The crumbling of the Berlin wall followed by a series of government failures in the Soviet Bloc is a related event, You can also argue that 1997 Asian Flu that brought chaos and a recession across many states was a harbinger of the more closely linked one in 2008 that brought many of the G7 states to their knees.
What are then the common linkages in the MENA states that are facing turmoil? My first bet would be on the forces of Globalisation as seen through the lenses of a news hungry media empire. The Twitter/face book inspired street protests were brought to life by tantalizing newsfeeds from embedded reporters and a generous support of Arab nationalism.
The second is Economic: Declining state revenues in states like Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Oman combined with anger against a growing income disparity in states like Libya, Kuwait & Saudi Arabia. To this when you add a growing young unemployed population with no hopes of earning a decent living, you set the scene for revolution.
The third linkage is the most quoted one, a lack of democracy and the promulgation of ruling dynasties. Imagine your reaction as an unemployed Libyan to the news that the Gaddafi family & cronies control almost everything from lucrative business empires down to the way you think and live your life. The situation is similar to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where thousands of ‘Princes’ have state salaries, freebies and immunity from almost everything while over 40% of the populace live in poverty.
The fourth linkage is geopolitical: a reflection of a transforming Multi Polar world where the Americas of the world must yield to the IRANs and CHINAs of an emerging world. Iran has set this in motion with trying to send two frigates into the Suez across to Syria, leading to a rethinking of our understanding of the military balance in the region. Most of this has been attributed to an isolation of Iran and the Cooperation between Egypt, US and Israel. With regime change in Egypt, there is a fear that this ménage a trios would have to accommodate Iran.
When all of this madness ends, what most commentators argue is that regardless of whether there is regime change or if a transition to democracy happens, the MENA region would have changed so drastically that many of the ‘Power Actors’ would have to rethink their own privileged existence and spend more on the welfare of their states. When that happens, Globalisation would have earned itself pat on the back for changing lives in region long ignored by the rest of the world.