The Arabs are on the right side of history

Friday, April 8th, 2011


From the Editor

The Western forces’ intervention in the Libyan episode of the Arab awakening has raised some very complicated questions on the justification for foreign interference in other countries’ affairs. The neoconservative project of spreading democracy through force, mired in its own contradictions, and unable to overshadow the suspicion that there were other more ulterior motives, namely the coveting of the Middle East’s vast reserves of oil, that drove the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.


This time of course, the circumstances are much more different, in a world fundamentally different from the post-9/11 scenario that prevailed in forwarding, and then sustaining an international order that was the vision of the neoconservative lobby’s blueprint for the world. The brakes were put on that project of course, by the rise of a resurgent liberal movement in the US with the rise of Barack Obama and the Democrats, and a growing animosity worldwide towards the buccaneering foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration- aptly summed up in his oft-cited “you’re either with us, or against us” quote.


But the ongoing enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya is the result of a much more consensual decision-making process, an act of solidarity from the world community not only with those who wish to free Libya from the suffocating, as well as inhibiting, 42-year rule of Colonel Gaddafi. As is well-known, the increasingly erratic Gaddafi’s brutal response to the popular movement to oust him threatened to bring the “Arab Spring” to a very cold end, and the excessive use of force, including fighter jets to bomb his own people, made it imperative for the international community to step in to put an end to the atrocities. The willingness of the international community to stand by the Libyan rebels was supposed to encourage democracy activists in a number of other countries, such as Bahrain and Yemen, in persisting with their endeavours to forge a greater say on their own lives across the Arab world. Countries like France and the UK were very eager to present their credentials as the leaders of this more “humanitarian” form of intervention (well, as humanitarian as bombing another country can get), but the key to it all was the 22-member Arab League’s very explicit support for such a measure, at least before the bombs started falling.


The inevitable horror that the bombings have created, the continued resistance of Gaddafi, and the uncertainty of h0w long this goes on and how it ends, to say nothing of what comes after, is now occasioning much consternation amongst nations. A Nato commander has put the timeframe at 90 days, and history shows us these estimates are always and everywhere surpassed. Libya has to a large extent taken the spotlight off the fledgling, but resilient movements in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, and it looks unlikely that any more transformational change is going to happen in any of these places before Libya is sorted out.


Where does that take us then, for the denouement of the Arab Spring? Probably well past the spring, through autumn, and into winter. What will sustain them you ask? Quite clearly, the support they enjoy in their own countries, and throughout the world, by virtue of being on “the right side of history.”

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