By Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann
The year 2011 revealed an unexpected second wave of freedom and democratic values expressing the desire of individuals for dignity and self-determination. Following the dramatic years of liberation in Eastern Europe and the USSR from 1989 to 1991, freedom this time resembled a date palm emerging from the sand in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Colonel Gaddafi, the longest-ruling and shrillest dictator of our time, was toppled within a few months.
Tunisia and Egypt shook off their authoritarian rulers and family clans.
In Asia the military dictatorship of many years in Myanmar (Burma) turned away from its dominant neighbour China setting free hundreds of political prisoners.
Pentagon strategist Dr. Fritz Kraemer (see www.worldsecuritynetwork.com/fritzkraemer) always firmly believed in the re-generation through an elite comprising few active personalities. This time they included the harassed Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself on fire December 17, 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and humiliation by officials becoming the catalyst of the revolution in Tunisia and the Arab Spring, the revolutionaries of Benghazi, Egypt´s bloggers as well as the numerous people at Cairo´s Tahrir Square. It is the beginning of a long-term struggle for freedom and stability.
However, there is the danger that the still unfinished young plants of freedom may be torn out again by a few radicals. The first free election in Egypt in November 2011 showed a strong Islamic block of 61 percent with the liberal Egypt Block running only third place with 13,4 percent. Democracy as well as millions of new jobs for young people in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) cannot be created within a few months. Democracy must be allowed to grow –as is documented by the development in Eastern Europe and Russia.
It will be of crucial importance, if the new freedom elite is capable of activating the two-thirds majority of freedom-loving, but simple-minded masses and in turn eliciting their enthusiasm for courageous leaders. Or alternatively, recalling the sorrowful experiences of Fritz Kraemer and the German nation during the Weimar Republic, radicals hijacking democracy and erecting an even more dreadful Islam extremist dictatorship as was the case in Iran in 1979.
The revolutions in North Africa and the Gulf serve as a crucial litmus test proving if Islam and democracy as well as the common global values are reconcilable; and if the people and moderate Islamist parties there – as was accomplished in all of Europe – are able to create a modern humane, free order. Or produce just another authoritarian regime like so apt described in the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell or in the books about the Third Reich and the rise of totalitarism by Bonn professor Karl Dietrich Bracher.
I firmly believe that our world would be safer if we get rid of the remaining dictatorships and the principles of our coexistence, stipulated in the UN Charter of 1949, have been implemented everywhere. Dictatorships employ violence in their domestic and foreign conduct, because they are violent by nature permanently abusing the rights of others.
The predominantly negative experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan show, however, that the U.S. and its allies were not able to implant strong Western-style democracies by military or soft political means from the outside in states without respective traditions.
Our foreign policy must draw lessons from the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and take into consideration experiences of the Eastern European and North African revolutions as well.
Until now it has mostly been chasing developments. New adjustments appear appropriate. There is no massive support of the delicate palm of democracy like several Arab countries do for the Islamic movements. Talking replaces concrete deeds.
Let’s support the new forces of freedom and human rights in MENA and start a more peaceful 2012.
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