The Arab ‘Spring’

It would be misleading to interpret the changes in the Arab world as isolated developments taking place in each and every country.

What is at stake is a region where the defining features of regional countries, ranging from their names to their borders, were determined by Western powers after World War I. The regional order established following bloody interventions has been in place since then. After Israel was established in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II, the post-World War I arrangements were restructured in the Middle East.

This revised post-World War II order was later replaced by the “Camp David Order” that took shape after 1978. This new arrangement, based on Western support for authoritarian Arab leaders, has dominated Middle Eastern affairs for the last three decades. This status quo positioned Israel at the center of regional relations and has enabled regional dictators to rule with an iron fist in subsequent years.

This order has been characterized by two significant features which were meant to maintain regional stability. On the one hand, America situated itself between Israel and the Arab countries to protect the former from the latter. On the other hand, local dictators positioned themselves between America and the Arab peoples in order to absorb any complaints and possible threats to the Camp David Order. This unsustainable arrangement came to an end following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. invasion intentionally or unintentionally agitated the dynamics of the regional order and status quo. In other words, in the post-Sept. 11 era, reactionary neo-conservative policies led to the fall of Saddam Hussein, which, in effect, triggered a political tsunami in which it will only be possible to observe the true implications in the coming years.

Surely, it would be wrong to consider the occupation of Iraq as the sole catalyst for political and social mobilization in the Arab world. Even if Saddam had not been overthrown, the dictatorships in the Arab world would not have continued for long. The extreme inequalities in the distribution of income, a lack of channels for democratic expression, governments turned into family and party dictatorships and continued occupation by Israel created unbearable pressure on the Arabs. The two slogans of the Arab Spring “bread, freedom and dignity” and “the people demand the fall/change of the order” were sufficient to indicate how much the people demanded change.

The established order was already having difficulty maintaining stability. The Arab people were quite aware of the reasons behind their suffering and they said that it was not only governments that encroached on their democratic rights, which was reflected in their slogan: “the people demand the fall of the order.” The order here does not simply refer to a single government in isolation from other experiences in the region. It must be understood as a broader term referring to the established order in the region and as dictators in the Arab world fall one after another, a new regional order is in the making.

Hurriyet Daily News – 27.10.2011

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