Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya is not Egypt, Tunisia - or Cuba

The revolts, revolutions and wars that have suddenly erupted in the Arab world have taken the West by surprise because we no nothing about their antecedents.

Anyone who can read French will find an excellent background piece written by an Arab specialist, Mohamed Hassan on www.michelcollon.infoLibye-revolte-populaire-guerre.html?lang=fr. The takeaway is that Libya’s largely tribal society lacked the means to build on Ghaddafi’s revolution, whereas neither Egypt nor Tunisia ever had one.  This explains why Egyptians and Tunisians who took to the streets were seeking more equity, while Libyans, disappointed with Ghaddafi’s ‘revolution’ are seeking more freedom.

As for Iraq, it already had a relatively developed civil society when Saddam Hussein instituted a socialist-inspired regime, providing free education and health care; alas, Saddam continued the megalomaniac leadership that had for decades tried to take over Kuwait, and was a brutal dictator.

The Iranian revolution brought Shi’a Islam - the Islam of the downtrodden - to power for the first time in modern history, in a country whose sophisticated, educated, middle class resented not only its attention to the poor, but its medieval religious aspect.

I was in Cuba when the Egyptian crisis broke, and Latin American intellectuals meeting with Fidel Castro in a six hour televised roundtable, wondered what it might mean for the regime that had inspired their countries’ break with feudalism and American-style capitalism, but where coffee, cooking oil and rice were still rationed after fifty-two years of American blockade and encouragement of revolt.

As Barack Obama surely knows from his conversations with Brazil’s social democratic leaders, a Latin America that is no longer America’s back yard has tends to want development to benefit the many, and will not support efforts to topple any government which, however brutally or clumsily, is trying to level the playing field, for example, Mugabe.

In his role as elder statesman and op-ed writer, Fidel hammers home the message that nuclear power and climate change are the world’s two overriding threats. Were it not for the fact that most socialists tend to agree with his assessment, he would almost seem to be saying that political regimes are irrelevant. The Communist Party Congress to be held next month after more than a decade, will probably emphasize the planetary threat to the physical ‘nation’ while renewing its commitment to the cooperative aspects of  ‘socialism’ required  to solve both national and planetary challenges.

When Americans contemplate each day’s crop of upheavals, they need to bear in mind that socialists and intellectuals are inclined to support any regime that has a com-munity-based approach to problem solving rather than an individual one.  For the United States, the upheavals in the Arab world are about geo-politics - oil and Israel - while for most of the world’s leaders, they are, in one form or another, about equity.

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