A spectre is now haunting Northern Africa and the Middle East–the spectre of the collapse of the American-aligned Arab Nation State. What started from a single act of self-immolation by a fruit stand operator in Tunisia has now metastasized into a full-blown revolutionary wave that has spread to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. Ben Ali has already exited to Saudi Arabia and Mubarak may now follow. If Mubarak goes, expect the gated cul de sac community of former dictators in Riyadh to grow.
The US Political class reaction, as one would expect, has been dissonant. Two days ago, the official talking points of the Obama Admin were expressed by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
“Our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
Is Mubarak a dictator? Joe Biden
“No. I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some… of the needs of the people out there.”
Now the talking points have changed. The New Talking Points are that Obama has been secretly ahead of this issue for two years. Wikileaks cables are now appearing that suggest that the US has been providing material support to pro-democracy groups in Egypt. The Washington Post, the leading establishment cheerleader on the point that the Wikileaks cables have never provided anything new, is now suddenly promoting the WikiLeaks Egyptian Cables. Of course, there is news that Egyptian police are using U.S.-made tear gas against the demonstrators. And the US annually funds 1/3 of the Egyptian military budget–the same military that would be used in a crack down.
In the US, there is a certain irony that this Revolutionary Wave, full of “anti-government rhetoric,” follows on the heels of our own establishment political class ranting against the evils of anti-government rhetoric–it threatens civility, the established order, and it portends violence against the Political Class. The irony just thickens the air with more choking cognitive dissonance that is already replete with it. Wikileaks is now good. But we are nonetheless torturing a US Soldier to turn on Julian Assange so he can be extradited to the US for espionage. The US now claims that the Egyptian government’s control of telecommunication services abridges fundamental, universal rights, but Hactivist Anonymous, attempting an old school circumvention of these controls with respect to the Egyptian context, is being hunted down in the US by the FBI and DHS.
One of the more absurd things is the attempt by neoconservatives to expropriate the Revolutionary Wave as validation. What a brazen attempt to rewrite their history and intellectual intent. The Revolutionary Wave is threatening American-aligned Arab States. Neoconservative doctrine called for the explicit use of “benevolent US Military hegemony” to force a “democratic pro-American re-alignment” of non-American aligned Arab or Muslim states. The primary motivations were the security of Israel and the security of petroleum production. The “Domino Effect” was supposed to topple Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lybia, etc and install a pro-American aligned government in Palestine. It was not meant to topple Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. The Revolutionary Wave is actually a repudiation of Neoconservative doctrine, and in particular, American Exceptionalism. The likes of Elliott Abrams instead try to pin this on the failure of “Arab Exceptionalism.” I don’t think so.
In historical context, the modern Arab State has it’s origins in the post WWI European partitioning of the old Ottoman Empire that resulted in a patchwork of territorial protectorates under the colonial thumbs of the European powers, particularly Britain and France. Post WWII signified the end of this colonial rule, meaning these “protectorates” became more or less independent states. Some, like Egypt, overthrew their monarchies and established a more “western” conception of a State. But this “independence” was relatively short-lived. Most, in the end, would become either Soviet or American “client States. This was the “cold war.”
Egypt, for example, became more or less a Soviet-client under Nasser but then, under Sadat, flipped to the US. After the assassination of Sadat, Mubarak would continue Egypt’s status as an American-client State.
Iraq, interestingly, was an example of an Arab State that actually never was either a Soviet or American Client State. It played both off each other. But it’s invasion of Kuwait, which threatened the US’s crown jewel Arab Client State, Saudi Arabia, triggered the Bush I “New World Order,” which was international sanction of US hegemony in the Middle East. It signaled the end of the cold war. The Soviet Union would soon be done. But Iraq actually didn’t topple. And there were still former Soviet-client States(e.g, Syria), that needed to be re-aligned. So, enter the Neoconservatives who viewed Iraq as the catalyst in a Domino theory to trigger full US alignment.
But US Military hegemony in the Middle East has ended up triggering a different sort of “domino effect.” The Revolutionary Wave is a revolt against the corrupt oligarchy of American-aligned regimes.
“Stability” is the buzzword, but I would suggest a more accurate term: “resiliency.” How resilient now is the DoubleThink of American Exceptionalism?