The ‘Arab Spring’ Backfire

Egypt looks set for a battle between religious fundamentalists and secularists, with the military seemingly also attempting to pull strings. 

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the ‘Arab Spring’ began, with Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia, many Western countries and their overzealous administrations were quick to jump on the democracy bandwagon; quick was the change of discourse – away from decades of tolerable autocratic alliances, to outright denunciations of their friends of the past. Fair enough, dictatorship seems a much outdated concept with no place in the modern world; the evolution of political science has left no scope for debate in this regard. Yet, championing the cause of democracy so fervently was a mistake – the administrations of the Western world showed little tact and forward-thinking in their actions, as it has been made evident following the ousting of Mohammed Morsi.

The vehemence of external support empowered the people to act, perhaps not physically, but certainly psychologically. Concessions made by leaders in the Middle-East and, in certain cases, their deposition, meant that something which bore vague resemblance to democracy was born. The world rejoiced at the apparent demise of despotism. However, to revisit the self-immolation of Bouazizi, this almost completely missed the point. The man did not light himself on fire out of some uppity desire for democracy or political representation – this is a yearning of the intelligentsia. The masses, out in the past few weeks in Tahrir Square, belong to what would be categorised as the working class and their primary concern is often directed by necessity over want. In other words, people like Bouazizi would have appreciated the luxury of a vote, but they are much more inclined towards their own sufficiency. An end to corruption and a fair chance to make an honest living are what the masses desire; this was proved when the Egyptian military ousted the democratically elected President, to the rejoice of a nation. As Fraser Nelson of the Daily Telegraph identifies, what the people of the Middle-East needed was not democracy but instead capitalism.

In truth, democracy is nothing but a quixotic concept in the context of the near future of the Middle-East. Stability is needed before democracy can be introduced. William Hague’s insistence that stability comes from democratic institutions is correct, but not in a situation as complex as that particular region. By starting the democracy bandwagon too early, the Western powers have enabled the Egyptian public to recognise their true potency. They have learnt that laws can be broken, that the constitution can be changed, whenever they so desire. Stability is becoming an object shrinking in the distance.

Now, Egypt finds itself in a difficult place, as do America and the UK. To call the military junta it is now dealing with a consequence of a coup d’état would rescind approximately $1.6 billion of aid to Egypt and plunge it further into instability. Simultaneously, these administrations fear that Egypt is to return to its past of a political battleground between corrupt military leaders and staunch Islamists. Whilst its generals maintain they want nothing for themselves, their actions suggest otherwise: the Egyptian military already rejected a draft constitution, fundamentally because it suggested an elected civilian authority to control the armed forces. Effectively, Egypt has slipped out of the control of the Western powers; its fate rests, and power lies, in the hands of its military. The US and UK may look on and observe, but they missed their chance; whole-hearted intervention may well have been practiced a few years before but with the economic downturn and memories of past failures, both the UK and the US were reluctant to intervene in a region crying out for the establishment of a genuine capitalist system.

As for the future of Egypt? It looks set for a battle between religious fundamentalists and secularists, with the military seemingly also attempting to pull strings. What’s to stop them usurping another legitimate President? It’s a dire situation that’s just screaming out impasse.

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Photo Credit: Diariocritico de Venezuela

One thought on “The ‘Arab Spring’ Backfire”

  1. Dear Purav,

    To begin with I would have loved to read your original insights over the matter. You seemed to have imported way too much from Fraser Nelson’s piece!

    I don’t know what do you mean by Arab Spring “Backfire”? Your article paints a picture that people of Egypt have failed in their pursuit of freedom. Where as I believe the recent developments are not disturbances but rather positive signs exhibiting a wakeful population that is mindful of their needs. Mohammed Mursi was stubborn with his hardliner agenda, which didn’t cut much ice with a population that simply needs more jobs, schools, roads and hospitals. They don’t need a renewed preaching of islamic fundamentals all over again. Hence, the rather swift reaction of the population to dethrone an unproductive government is a positive activism reflecting a nation that is serious about changes in the social and economic landscape of the country.

    On the other hand as written by Fraser Nelson the Arab world certainly doesnt need a capitalist system of governance. Arabs are already fighting cronism in every walk of their life day in day out. Bracket together capitalism and the future of Arabs would be destroyed beyond any repairable condition. The highly insolvent and over-leveraged institutions financially, and greedy and unaccountable socially should not be marketed as the future model of governance for the Arabs. The hallmark attribute of Western institutions is to privatize gains and socialize losses. Developments like the Snowden affair clearly shows how phoney the democratic values of Western democracies are.

    Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and hence the population is equipped to decide their model of governance on their feet. It would be great if the West allow the Egyptian population to handle their affairs on their own.

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