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  Global Views
US Revisionis​ts & Arab Spring
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
Arab Spring is the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests, riots, and civil wars in the Arab world that began on Dec. 18, 2010.

The neo-cons, often labeled the hawks, who supported the strategy of a swift overhauling of the Middle East through force have lost to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and pro-Iranian Shiites in Iraq. The Japanese lost in the Second World War to the Allied Forces, but they saw in Western democracy an opportunity, and thus showed great agility in adopting US model of development and governing. This is not the case for the Middle East, which expressed obstinate resistance to the US policies, forcefully rejected Western ideas, and labeled Westerners “eternal” enemies of “Islam.”

Newt Gingrich –former US house speaker- is one the staunch supporters of a new policy of disengagement from the Middle East. His revisionist ideas are gaining great support among activists and policy makers, who see in the Arab world, a unique social formation that is not equipped to absorb the principles of freedom, secularism and the rule of law. The wave of rebellions that shook the Middle East have only resulted in uncalculated chaos, and a delineation of democracy is nowhere to be seen in the horizon.

The fall of the secular dictatorships in Iraq and Egypt , Libya and Tunisia has been replaced by the emergence of newly religious states that show great hostility towards the US, its policies, and its institutions. The assassination of the US Ambassador –Christopher Stevens – in Libya in 1992. The number of coalition forces who died in Afghanistan and Iraq reached 8,100, among them 6,700 were Americans. This can only be an indicator of the rejection of Western culture by the competing Arab-Islamic ideologies that hold a very different set of values.

The overthrow of the regimes in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia and the ongoing civil war in Syria presented new realities that revived the old debate about culture and democracy introduced by Samuel Huntington his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of the Remaking of the Old Order , and his foreign policy article “The Hispanic Challenge.” The relevance of this model is at heart of the debate on democracy and its feasibility in the Arab world.

The argument presented in Huntington’s treatise is that nations are build according to certain values, which constitute the building pillars of socio-political systems that can be either open, like Western societies or closed, like Middle Easter societies. Huntington sees a dangerous future for the United States because of the continuous flow of immigrants who hold anti-Protestant values, and ethnic groups who resist to integrate in mainstream America.

This notion is more meaningful when it comes to its application to the Arab world. Middle East societies remain dictatorial, and traditional religious texts are not open for reinterpretation, and as a result, the adoption of new value system that places “the individual ,” in the center of the universe remains out of the question in Arab societies.

The possibility of a dialogue with the West remains remote if not impossible, and thus a cycle of violence, coup d’état, and conspiracies remain characteristics of these societies. During the past two decades, things seem to have gone from bad to worse in the Arab world, as domestic violence, regional conflicts, the failures of certain states, such as Libya and Iraq, and the radicalization of new generation indicate that past US policies have backfired, and helped hatch a new form of enemies that hold no respect for life: the suicide bombers.

The failure of the neo-cons in advancing the cause of democracy and the rule of law in the Arab world has been explained by the existing culture of this region to change, its inability to espouse the philosophy of Enlightenment, and making religion a “civil matter” as portrayed the famous sociologist Robert N. Bellah in his defense of secularization of the American society as precondition of the democratic institutions.

Bellhah –a staunch supporter of secularism- saw in civil religion a source of power for democracy. American society is not religious in the sense that Christian fundamentalists seem to believe, but it is a “civil religion,” where God is only mentioned as part of the political landscape. An “individual” free in his thoughts – is a pillar of the spirit of entrepreneurship and democracy.

This aspect often present in Asian societies at different levels seems to be non-existent in the Arab world. It is not far fetched to say that people are born free, except in the Middle East, where freedom remains a rare commodity, and governments fail to grasp the fundamentals of this concept as the essence of development. As the Third President of the United States – Thomas Jefferson indicated - “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government,” and protecting will strengthen the democratic institutions.

The state in the Middle East has failed to protect the freedom of the individuals, and to renounce violence as a “barbarian” form of establishing order. Thus, the US revisionists believe strongly that change can only come from within, and cultural change is the only viable alternative to bring the Middle East into the realm of humanity.



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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.

 

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