There may not be a Department of Peace in our executive branch yet, but Congress funds an analogous effort, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), located at the edge of the mall in Washington, DC.
The nonpartisan mission of USIP, founded in 1964, is "to prevent and resolve violent international conflicts" and to "think, act, teach, and train" those in a position to intervene, bringing together diverse organizations from all over the world as peacebuilders.
In this contemporary, expansive, light-filled venue, USIP Senior Fellow Robin Wright, a journalist, author, and foreign policy analyst, addressed a packed audience today on the basics of the message in her new book, Rock the Casbah, an analysis of the Arab Spring at this precipitous stage in its growth arc--the dictatorships throughout the Middle East and beyond have been rocked by the nonviolent uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
Some response from the tyrannies is evident--particularly in Egypt, where not only has Mubarak been deposed, but a new cabinet was forced in and 700 government officials have been fired. Protest against the 6,000-year-old tyranny (in one form or another) continues at Tahrir Square, among other venues.
Where to now? First some background information is needed.
Wright first contextualized the event as a whole: the latest cataclysm in a chain of them that began with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and proceeded to the founding of Israel, the Iranian Revolution, the successful elimination of both the Iron Curtain and Apartheid, and the rise of socialist-oriented governments in South America.
Then, to the catalysts: fully two-thirds of the population of the twenty-two countries in the Middle East are below the age of thirty. Fifty percent of them are literate. Second, the new wave of global communication via social media such as Facebook and Twitter has filled in for the violence used in the past to make their statement, rebellion against the plutocracy (25 percent of them are unemployed, the highest such statistic in the world).
As a result of these revolutionary social media, the whole world was and is watching, an irrefutable influence on all of the countries short of Syria, where violence and bloodshed are the continued and nonstop response to its role in the nonviolent jihad, to which Wright refers as the "counter-jihad."
Another effective medium consists of anti-terrorism comic books, translated into seven languages and distributed to colleagues throughout the Middle East.
Moreover, women have been empowered, and subjugation by the traditional culture is subsiding to various degrees throughout the region; literacy and the new social media have played a huge part in this challenge to extremism also. Pink hijabs in lieu of black have become their defiant emblem. Designer hijabs are also becoming popular. These, along with the high rate of participation in the movement by women is inspiring the next generation of daughters to look forward to a freer future.
Wright, who has been covering the area for forty years, foresaw this defiance of autocracy through the revolution in Algeria that stretched from 1954 to 1962 when, after violence, torture, and bloodshed, the North African colony finally saw light--the workings of the move toward independence from France was set in motion and unstoppable. More recently, friends in Egypt had said that what they needed and were awaiting was a spark to turn to flame, as it did in January in Tunisia.
Al Qaeda is becoming history as the drive toward a nonviolent revolution has vanquished terrorism as the key to their future well-being, all of this coinciding with bin Laden's death.
Two prominent figures in al Qaeda have now condemned and renounced it in publicized support of this spring of their history: Sheikh Zalman al-Awdah, former mentor to Osama bin Laden, and Sayed Imam Sharif (known as Dr. Fadl).
At the same time, the youthful counter-jihad has spawned its own heroes, including a New Age preacher, called Elvis; Muslim comedians; the rappers named Arab Knights, as well as Eminem, among others; and the feisty Dalia Ziada, who contemplated rebellion since her genital mutilation at age eight.
But mainly the original fomenter of this revolution-waiting-to-happen tops the hierarchy, the Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in protest when a policewoman approached him to exact a day's wages in return for staying in business. Bouazizi approached the government with his complaint to no avail before his ultimate response that shook the world.
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