June 22, 2013
Demagoguery and the Arab Spring
By christian gilbert
A look at the wests recent actions in the Middle East.
The Arab Spring, at a glance, is the series of uprisings that have been toppling dictator after dictator in the Middle East. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and more countries have been in states of change for the past few years. The old oppressive governments have been overthrown by the young, the oppressed, and the hopeful. The whole event seems to me like a trail of dominos. Once one country's people realized that they had the power to change things and successfully overthrew their government, it caused the people of other countries to realize and do the same thing. It is currently a large topic of debate in politics, academia, and even in small social interactions. People ask, should we be doing something? Is it good? What will happen? Only the future will reveal the answers to some of our burning questions, but we can try to predict with some degree of accuracy what will happen as long as we gain a better understanding of what is actually happening.
First it is imperative to understand that these uprisings are necessary. The people who are rioting and rising live under oppressive rule. In Libya, the initial protest was a rather impromptu response to some people being arrested and held without charge. When the people were released, they and their family and friends started protesting and got people from the streets to join them. This had a snowball effect that led to a huge protest In Benghazi. The riot police responded, and the government reacted, and Gaddafi gave the order to use lethal force on the rioters. When news spread, this caused many other riots, and eventually an organized civil war. Under Gaddafi, the people did not have freedom of speech, or congregation, there was incredible corruption and a huge wealth gap. While the people of Libya received certain amenities from the countries oil exports, no amount of money could make up for not having freedom.
The next thing to be aware of is that these revolutions are not spontaneous, despite what most believe and what the government would have you believe. The western powers most definitely have contributed largely to the unrest in the Middle East, and it was intentional. Al Jazeera, a Middle Eastern Qatari funded news agency, is the most notable tool of influence for the western powers. Nothing is more powerful than public opinion, and in shaping public opinion nothing is more powerful than the news. Al Jazeera reported on every revolution, dramatically favoring the revolutionaries from the start of all of them. They had such intensive pro-revolutionary coverage directed to people in the areas of other oppressed countries that they actually spurred action. The oppressed people saw through the eyes of Al Jazeera that they could do something. Al Jazeera itself has even hinted in certain interviews with 60-minutes that they are directly trying to do this. "So what if we have an agenda? Everyone has an agenda. If our agenda is freedom and democracy, what's wrong with that?" I may have paraphrased a bit, but one of the news persons at Al Jazeera said that in an interview with 60-minutes.
The connection that makes me certain that western powers are behind this is clear. Qatar produces a lot of oil and natural gas and has a lot of wealth because of it. In fact, Qatar's natural gas reserves are the third largest in the world. Yet they have an incredibly small army. To protect their wealth, there is the largest US naval base in the world smack-dab in the heart of Qatar. It seems that the relationship may be that as long as Qatar (through Al Jazeera) destabilizes certain countries in the Middle East, the US will give them protection. The western interests are also clear when you look at how many weapons the western powers give to these countries that have been involved in the Arab Spring, something that only makes sense in this case if they are seeking to destabilize these countries. In the years leading up to the Libyan revolution, Gaddafi bought all kinds of weapons from western powers. He bought fighter jets from the French, small arms (like the F2000 and the A-K 103) from the Belgians and Russians, he bought other weapons and artillery through trade relations with the US that allowed him to buy weapons from other countries. In exchange, Gaddafi gave these countries money and good trade relations when it came to oil. What he didn't realize is that he may also have given them his country, and possibly his plans for Africa. If you look into Gaddafi's plans for the United States of Africa, it becomes obvious why the western powers would want to remove him from power. The west wanted to secure power over the resources in the Middle East, Africa, and Libya, and Gaddafi (as well as the other leaders that have been overthrown) threatened that.
What the western powers may not concern themselves with is the aftermath of these revolutions. If we give aid to the rebels to support our western ideals of freedom and democracy, then why does the aid and news coverage stop when the new regime comes in that is just as bad as the last? In Libya, the new government may seem to have good ideals and values, but the reality is much darker. Racial oppression is currently a huge problem in Libya. The final supporters of Gaddafi were groups of people who were traditionally dark skinned. Now, predominantly dark skinned areas are being punished. People are being arrested for the color of their skin or where they live. Due to the lack of control and power the new government has, there's nothing they could really do about it even if they tried. People are being tortured, and held without trial. While the new Congressional Government is simply trying to secure control over Libya, their own people are committing horrendous crimes. So while the revolution was necessary, the result is just as bad in many ways.
It might be confusing, that I claim this revolution necessary when it leads to such terrible violence, but I will explain. The revolution was necessary; but so was foresight, and advanced planning of a new government, and forgiveness. Supporters of Gaddafi may not have been educated enough to know what he was doing. They may have been scared of exactly what is happening right now if he wasn't in power, oppression in the other direction. These necessary things aren't possible when there is disorganization. People alone are amazing, but people in groups are disgusting. If I had ultimate power, I don't know what I would have changed to avoid this and I won't pretend to know, but I do know that there is an inherent problem with the western powers causing these uprisings with immunity to the results.
The global impact of these revolutions is also important to be aware of. During the periods of instability, oil prices may soar and western interests may appear threatened by the chaos. However, after the new governments form, the western powers have new negotiating power over them. Libya, since forming its new government, produces and sells the same amount, if not more, of oil that it did before the revolution. Gaddafi made incredible amounts of money off of the same amount of oil that is giving the new government not nearly as much. The new government doesn't know how to keep prices up while maintaining production and demand. They simply don't have the experience and therefore the western powers are benefitting greatly from cheaper oil. But there is another factor that could impact the global society, chaos.
I've already mentioned that the Libyan government is trying desperately to secure control of its own country. While the international community considers Libya to be under one rule, some Libyans would beg to differ. Different tribes and militias are causing significant difficulties in maintaining a centralized government. Militias that fought for the National Transitional Government in Libya are currently claiming right to power. There is active violence between militias, tribes, and the government. Unfortunately this chaos isn't limited to Libya. Due to the temporal proximity that all of these revolutions have to each other, there are militias and small arms groups all across Northern Africa and the Middle East. Since the governments are falling, their arms are being spread and sold and distributed all over the place. The F2000's that Gaddafi bought are now in the hands of Syrian revolutionaries. Anti-aircraft weapons owned by the Libyan government are currently in the hands of extremists groups, also they were used by the Mali people in their revolution efforts. Syria has chemical weapons, what happens when the Syrian government falls and those weapons are up to the highest bidder?
I don't know, and I don't think anyone else does either. The western powers are creating chaos that they can't control. This many weapons, and this magnitude of weapon grade, with such a low level of control is a recipe for disaster. The alarming amount of weapons and alarming lack of control or regulation over them may simply keep the Middle East in turmoil for much longer than would naturally occur without western intervention. But then again, maybe that's the point.
The western powers benefit from a disorganized chaotic Middle East, in a shallow shortsighted kind of way. The pattern is the same as it has been for thousands of years. The Middle East has resources, and the west wants them. As long as the western powers can keep the Middle Eastern governments scattered and inexperienced, then the oil prices will remain low. The Middle East will remain unstable, and it won't develop. This is selfish and unethical for obvious reasons, but it is shortsighted for a few less obvious ones. If the Middle East doesn't develop, we miss out on all of the innovation that its cultures have to offer us. Those who think differently than we do can figure out the problems we have because they don't try to solve them the same way. Also, as technology increases, the cost of weapons will decrease and the availability will increase. What happens when these chaotic groups of rebels, or insurgents or whatever we're told to call them, gains access to nuclear weaponry? What happens when they start realizing that we are constantly putting them down and holding them back? I don't imagine they'd be too diplomatic.
Yes, this is demagoguery, but I believe in people. I believe that if people can take back their freedoms then they can enact change for the better. There are solutions to this problem I've explained. I do think that there are many possible scenarios over the next 20 years that could lead to a developed and organized and safe Middle East. Politicians and the government trying to keep us from seeing the truth disgust me and it should scare you, and trying to keep us and the Middle East in the dark for its own agenda makes me wonder how we support the politicians that we support. As long as western powers keep actively holding them back I do believe that there is a chance for disaster. I think that the powers who are destabilizing the Middle Eastern totalitarian states should take responsibility for the repercussions of whatever revolution ensues. I think that Al Jazeera, the US, and other organizations with influence should attempt to create stable governments and not just chaos. I think that the Middle Eastern people should take action not for actions sake, like what has been happening, but to ensure their own prosperous future. I think that the news agencies should stop idealizing these revolutionaries. Yes they are acting for freedom and this is noble, but in almost every country that has undergone a revolution in the Arab Spring, the resulting government has been just as oppressive. If the media objectively reported this, then maybe future revolutions and future governments (like whatever government will take over in Syria after its civil war) will have an actual chance of success and equality and freedom. If the media acted on the purist goals that young communication majors believe in, like truth and objectivity and fairness, then maybe people would be more informed. The media should not be a tool that governments use to control their people or to destabilize other countries. We think we have freedom of the press in the USA, but is that true when the government so obviously abuses the media to control us? I have hope for the Middle East, maybe these revolutions won't lead to disaster; but, that hope is limited by my small hope that citizens in western countries will take back their freedom.
I am a 19 year old Sophomore at Elon University. I am currently studying biology with a focus in biotechnology and a minor in philosophy. I believe in transparency, truth, and a well informed public.