Arab Spring: A Mirage - II
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Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 14 Aug , 2012

Democratic Hype and “Arab Spring”

The on-going phase of sociopolitical transformation, ostensibly in the name of democracy, cannot be described even as a partial success in the few Arab nations that have been affected by it. The process is still taking place. Success remains elusive as well as considerably distorted from what it was projected as initially. Now, this in itself raises the crucial question, considering that only a few of the numerous Arab countries have been actually affected by a phase of sociopolitical transformation, would it be fair to label this as Arab Spring and raise false notions about the entire Arab world having been affected by it? Besides, the different ways in which transformation is taking place in a few countries cannot be sidelined. This adds credence to questioning the hype raised about Arab Spring when in essence the transformation is yet to satisfy the people and leaders in a few countries that it has begun in. This naturally demands deliberation on whether the hype was deliberately raised to ensure that political transformation begins in a few nations and justify the support for the same in others.

Democracy in any part of the world cannot be imposed from outside, by external forces.

The few odd nations where political transformation is actually taking place do not constitute even 50 per cent of the Arab world. Equally important is the fact that the role of external powers and internal forces has varied strongly in all these countries, which are said to be heading towards greater democracy. It may not be possible to delve in details on developments in each of these nations, but they shall be referred to briefly. From one angle, the way the Arab Spring has been projected by Western media and nations suggests that this process was long overdue and democratically the Arabs are moving forward in the “right” direction. At the outset, one is tempted to raise the question as to whether it would be fair to blame Arabs if they have not yet included democratic principles in their political structure. Yemen, for instance, was subject to Western colonialism less than a century ago. So was Algeria. It takes decades, even centuries, for the development of democratic institutions and norms. Considering that colonialism had not allowed democracy to actually take roots in Yemen, why should only the Arab leaders of this nation be blamed for their country’s political system?

If the so-called supporters and promoters of Arab Spring are doing so out of their genuine concern for democracy to take roots in this region, there is yet another angle to this phase that cannot be sidelined. Democracy in any part of the world cannot be imposed from outside, by external forces. When external pressure or force is used to change regimes in the name of establishing democracy, it is, in essence, nothing but another form of neocolonialism confirming its grip on that country. What else does the forcible ouster of Muammar Gaddafi from Libya and that of Saddam Hussein from Iraq suggest?

Undeniably, propaganda raised about the need of political transformation in favour of democracy in Syria suggests the same. The “concern for democracy” regarding Syria, is motivated towards the ouster of President Assad from power. Well, democratic and diplomatic ethics demand that this be a decision taken by Syrians and not imposed as per dictates of Washington and its allies.

 Attempts made through the United Nations have been defeated by Russia and China. Besides, even if Assad decides to step down, there is the fear that this may lead to greater instability, chaos and conflict in the country.

True, Egypt has witnessed Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power. But would it be fair to assume that this transformation has actually led to a democratic form of government, enabling elected representatives of the people to hold reins of power there? Not yet. The people in Egypt and the observers still remain dissatisfied with the transformation, which remains a far cry from the democratic form that they had probably envisaged at the time they began demonstrations demanding the dismissal of Mubarak. The Egyptian experience has apparently made the rest of the Arab world much wiser and practical about taking the same path in the name of so-called democracy. This explains as to why the “revolution” painted as Arab Spring has not actually spread across the entire Arab world and has not yet succeeded totally in the countries that have been affected by it.

This also explains as to why even Western writers have started deliberating on this so-called revolution, particularly in Egypt, as already being dead.

Arabs Disillusioned by Arab Spring

Undeniably, the on-going protests, conflict, chaos and instability in the few Arab nations witnessing these in the name of Arab Spring have made the rest of the Arab world wary of their facing similar changes. They are gradually revising their stand on demonstrations and violence spelling a brighter future for the region. In this context, notwithstanding all the support displayed by the United States with its supporters for opposition forces and rebellions in Syria, prospects of Assad being unseated easily still remain dim. Attempts made through the United Nations have been defeated by Russia and China. Besides, even if Assad decides to step down, there is the fear that this may lead to greater instability, chaos and conflict in the country. A strong division prevails amongst the opposition, which minimises prospects of a stable government taking over from Assad in the immediate future. Conflict or warlike means cannot be expected to lead to any democratic form of government. Nor can they guarantee political stability.

India has wisely stated its preference for a dialogue between all national representatives within Syria to end the present crisis. In other words, greater importance is now being given to a Gandhian style for encouraging political changes within Syria, Tunisia and other Arab nations. The Gandhian style implies giving importance to dialogue, without any conflict or use of force, and allowing the democratic process to gradually develop from within the nation, leaving no room for it to be imposed by external forces.

Undeniably, communication revolution has made the Arabs highly conscious of their own political preferences, religious identity and national sovereignty. They don’t want to compromise on either of these by being taken for a ride by what is being projected as Arab Spring. The Arabs, in general, have not welcomed the change in Western attitude towards them following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. They have also not approved of their religion, Islam, which means peace, being associated with terrorism. Not surprisingly, gradually but definitely, they have been prompted to give importance to enhancing their diplomatic ties with the East, which includes India.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Nilofar Suhrawardy

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a well-known freelance journalist who has, at different periods, written extensively for national papers.

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