Gulf Spring: Signs, Expectations – OpEd


By Ali Bluwi

Most states have their surveying tools and resources to identify the consequences of events on their vital interests. For these states to defend their vital interests, they offer information, consultations, and logistical support. Yet changes, reforms, and development should be the norm and not the exception.

Stable states possess steady political tools to contend with pressures and demands. In his seminal book, “Political System Theory,” David Easton presents a model of input and output in which he analyzes how a regime in a given society responds to public demands. He identified a set of external and internal interactions and how to respond consciously to them. Perhaps, these regimes are not democratic in the Western sense of the term. Yet, channels of communication are widely open in a sense that the demands of people can be felt. Unlike dictatorship which cracks down on people while asking for allegiance, these states respect their people.

Dr. Youssif Makki told me a story of a Saudi intellectual who was detained with other three of his companions in a place fully equipped with Internet services, TV, books and food where they managed to write three books. Just imagine if these detainees were in Libya during Qaddafi’s reign or in Syria. What would have happened to them? Execution entails only a false security document!

The Arab Spring is an internal challenge. Hence, a weak response to this challenge or an inaccurate reading of the situation only reflects the limitation of input and information upon which decision makers rely. In other words, decision makers may be kept aloof of what is going on. This is true in a police state in which the security apparatuses have a marriage of interests with corruption and business. We have seen this happening in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and now in Syria. This is indeed the Trojan horse that led to the fall of the regimes in three of these states.

It is worth pointing out to Alvin Toffler’s book on transformation of authority, a book which was ironically translated into Arabic in Libya. In his book, Toffler refers to the information, economic, domestic, global, intellectual transformations and how governments, individuals, and institution should adapt to and cope with these changes. States should rejuvenate their structures and to move from individual charismatic leaders to institutions and rule of law. Even well known leaders resign while at their peak, whereas dictators believe that no one is better or more able than them. They think that they are close to God while people are nothing but shepherded fifth columns, traitors, and extremists.

The gap between state and people could have been bridged had the state paid attention to these transformations and responded positively to them. Additionally, people would have voiced their demands peacefully had the channels of communication been open. The problem, according to the American president is one of absence of information. On the other hand, the Arabs insist that it is a problem of bad advisers. Seen in this way, the Arab monarchies are different from republicans in the sense that the former has the ability to respond to changes for the sake of citizens, to keep channels of communication open, and to compromise with opposition.

Explicit in the dynamics of the Arab Spring is the inability of republican regimes to realize that their people are living in a state of desperation. The outcome cannot be more striking: The gap between the haves and the have-nots is outstanding! Some ask whether this generation is civilized. I would like to say that whenever a citizen feels that he is targeted, he will start seeing Western civil society organizations are nothing but mere intelligence agencies with ulterior destructive motives.

Commenting on my last article entitled, “A safe exit for Assad,” a researcher from the Center of Asian Studies in Delhi asked me a question on the impact of any change in Syria on the Gulf states. I replied that since the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, the world has undergone transformation. In fact, the terrible events of 9/11 have changed the world as American has adopted a militarized foreign policy. This happened at a time when technology becomes the dominant force coupled with the new interactive media. Additionally America is on the retreat. Now the Gulf states have a great immunity and they are undergoing gradual political, economic, and social changes.

Additionally, Washington found that its exploitation of fear of Al-Qaeda and terrorism in general as a means to interfere in the region has backfired. For this reason, the US is seeking an opportunity to shift gear and move from war on terror to a civil democratic concept, that Islamists would be quick to adopt and ready to project an image of pluralism and diffidence, and implicit in their remarks is that they would not revoke the peace treaty with Israel. Perhaps, the change in Syria will be a prototype to political rearrangements in the region in a way that reflects the Arab exclusivity.

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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