It will take several years before the Arab revolutions successfully build free and democratic societies. The ultimate post-revolutions stage will be the gradual unification of those societies in larger and more respectful states. The revolutionary tide will go into multiple phases and this is just the start of Phase I. The West should understand this natural evolutionary, revolutionary process which should outlast those currently in power in Washington, London and Paris. What should the West do? They should stay out!!!
Arab revolutions have started naturally and from the bottom up. These revolutions are popular uprisings against injustice, corruption, oppression and foreign interventions known as the Bushs’ Wars. They have culminated with the occupation of Iraq for the last eight years. The two Iraq wars have strongly contributed to the feelings of desperation and hopelessness. The continuous occupation of Arab land and repeated aggression by Israel has added fuel to the fires of oppression and injustice.
Although they all have a natural start, Arab revolutions have not followed the same trajectory in bringing change and toppling down corrupt and oppressive regimes. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are more similar than dissimilar in the way they started and the way they have developed so far, though both are not fully completed yet and have more to come. On the other hand, the Bahraini, Yemeni and Libyan revolutions are more dissimilar from each other and from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions for one basic reason: the indigenous population of those countries is not homogeneous like the people in Egypt and Tunisia based on unusual criteria.
In Bahrain, there are Sunni and Shia and one group has much more privileges than the other. There are also temptations and intimidations coming from the rich neighbors to influence the outcome in that small island state. All these factors help the regime stay longer in power and allow the revolution to take a longer time than the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions before it. In Yemen, there are the North, the South, the Sunni and the Shia, in addition to some support coming to the regime from the neighbors and the West. The revolution in Yemen will last longer than the ones in Tunisia and Egypt, but it will also reach its goals in less time than the Bahraini revolution will.
In Libya, there are East and West Libyans, with the latter having more advantages than the former. This separation in privileges has also lengthened the uprising on both sides. However, the Libyan uprising has been contaminated by the West’s military intervention that has put a spoke in the wheel of the Libyan revolution in particular and the Arab revolutions in general. The western military intervention has stripped the Libyan revolution from its natural evolution and actually divided Libya into two parts: East Libya and West Libya. It will increase the number of Libyan causalities rather than reduce it, as was claimed by President Barack Obama, who in my opinion does not truly believe in the benefits and efficacy of the military intervention there. It will leave Libya injured like Iraq and engaged in a civil war for many years to come. Attacking Libya has given Iran another 10-year break, in addition to the first 10-year break after the 1991 war and the second 10-year break after the 2003 war. With a cumulative 30-year break, any attack on Iran by the United States or Israel will be a huge adventure with uncalculated consequences and proportions. The United States does not know for sure the identities of the revolutions in Libya. There is a lesson that can be learned from the Afghan war. In short, the western attack on Libya has hurt both the Arab revolutions and the West’s interests. It is my opinion that Libya is not totally ready for the revolution now as much Yemen has been, needless to say Tunisia and Egypt. The air strike attack, regardless of its political cover, is another form of the Bushs’ Wars. Libya is not a threat to U.S. national security; it has oil and there is no exit strategy after the country plunges in a civil war.
The Arab revolutions will continue for several years. Other regimes in the Middle East are waiting in line, but the future revolutions will be more complicated than the Bahraini and Yemeni revolutions. The countries on the waiting list either have a lot of wealth or are getting a lot of aid from foreign sources. They are very important to Israel and the West, and the latter may intervene militarily to support the waiting regimes to remain in power. But the natural evolutionary, revolutionary tide will be dominant.
The revolutions will eventually bring to power new regimes that are governed by the people. It will not be hard to replace the new elected regimes if the people choose to do so. As the Arab revolutions turned out to be contagious, Arab unification will be contagious as well — spreading from this country to that country, not only because the people are free to choose, but also because of pragmatic reasons that make people want to be closer.
Boundaries between free and democratic Arab countries will be lowered because free people will need free cross-border trade and free movements of labor and capital. They will need compatible and homogeneous laws and legislation. They desire to be able to pool markets and achieve economies of scale and scope.
These needs and actions will bring the Arabs closer to each other. They will aspire for larger and better homelands and they will seek unity with their neighbors. The truly elected leaders will not be able to stop this march towards unity because they have term limits. They will form confederations in North Africa, Greater Syria and the Gulf. Those confederations will seek to unite with other smaller confederates. Eventually, the Arab revolutions should bring unification to the Arab World from the bottom up and stability to the whole world. The Arabs and the whole world will mutually benefit from the creation of a big, stable united Arab states confederation.
Shawkat Hammoudeh is a professor of economics. He can be reached at [email protected].