by Andrew Gavin Marshall

2011
from GlobalResearch Website

 

 

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

He is co-editor, with Michel Chossudovsky, of the recent book,

"The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century."

He is currently working on a forthcoming book on 'Global Government'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

North Africa and the Global Political Awakening
January 27, 2011

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive...

 

The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination... The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening... That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing...

 

The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches...

 
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well... Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious "tertiary level" educational institutions of developing countries.

 

Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million "college" students.

 

Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred...

[The] major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low.

 

To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.[1]
- Zbigniew Brzezinski
Former U.S. National Security Advisor
Co-Founder of the Trilateral Commission
Member, Board of Trustees, Center for Strategic and International Studies


An uprising in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the country’s 23-year long dictatorship of President Ben Ali.

 

 

A new ‘transitional’ government was formed, but the protests continued demanding a totally new government without the relics of the previous tyranny. Protests in Algeria have continued for weeks, as rage mounts against rising food prices, corruption and state oppression.

 

Protests in Jordan forced the King to call on the military to surround cities with tanks and set up checkpoints. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Cairo demanding an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of activists, opposition leaders and students rallied in the capitol of Yemen against the corrupt dictatorship of President Saleh, in power since 1978.

 

Saleh has been, with U.S. military assistance, attempting to crush a rebel movement in the north and a massive secessionist movement growing in the south, called the “Southern Movement.”

 

Protests in Bolivia against rising food prices forced the populist government of Evo Morales to backtrack on plans to cut subsidies. Chile erupted in protests as demonstrators railed against rising fuel prices. Anti-government demonstrations broke out in Albania, resulting in the deaths of several protesters.

It seems as if the world is entering the beginnings of a new revolutionary era: the era of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ While this ‘awakening’ is materializing in different regions, different nations and under different circumstances, it is being largely influenced by global conditions. The global domination by the major Western powers, principally the United States, over the past 65 years, and more broadly, centuries, is reaching a turning point.

 

The people of the world are restless, resentful, and enraged. Change, it seems, is in the air. As the above quotes from Brzezinski indicate, this development on the world scene is the most radical and potentially dangerous threat to global power structures and empire. It is not a threat simply to the nations in which the protests arise or seek change, but perhaps to a greater degree, it is a threat to the imperial Western powers, international institutions, multinational corporations and banks that prop up, arm, support and profit from these oppressive regimes around the world.

 

Thus, America and the West are faced with a monumental strategic challenge: what can be done to stem the Global Political Awakening?

 

Zbigniew Brzezinski is one of the chief architects of American foreign policy, and arguably one of the intellectual pioneers of the system of globalization. Thus, his warnings about the 'Global Political Awakening' are directly in reference to its nature as a threat to the prevailing global hierarchy.

 

As such, we must view the 'Awakening' as the greatest hope for humanity. Certainly, there will be mainy failures, problems, and regressions; but the 'Awakening' has begun, it is underway, and it cannot be so easily co-opted or controlled as many might assume.

The reflex action of the imperial powers is to further arm and support the oppressive regimes, as well as the potential to organize a destabilization through covert operations or open warfare (as is being done in Yemen).

 

The alternative is to undertake a strategy of "democratization" in which Western NGOs, aid agencies and civil society organizations establish strong contacts and relationships with the domestic civil society in these regions and nations. The objective of this strategy is to organize, fund and help direct the domestic civil society to produce a democratic system made in the image of the West, and thus maintain continuity in the international hierarchy.

 

Essentially, the project of "democratization" implies creating the outward visible constructs of a democratic state (multi-party elections, active civil society, "independent" media, etc) and yet maintain continuity in subservience to the World Bank, IMF, multinational corporations and Western powers.

It appears that both of these strategies are being simultaneously imposed in the Arab world: enforcing and supporting state oppression and building ties with civil society organizations. The problem for the West, however, is that they have not had the ability to yet establish strong and dependent ties with civil society groups in much of the region, as ironically, the oppressive regimes they propped up were and are unsurprisingly resistant to such measures.

 

In this sense, we must not cast aside these protests and uprisings as being instigated by the West, but rather that they emerged organically, and the West is subsequently attempting to co-opt and control the emerging movements.

Part 1 of this essay focuses on the emergence of these protest movements and uprisings, placing it in the context of the Global Political Awakening. Part 2 will examine the West's strategy of "democratic imperialism" as a method of co-opting the 'Awakening' and installing "friendly" governments.
 



The Tunisian Spark

A July 2009 diplomatic cable from America’s Embassy in Tunisia reported that,

“many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities. Extremism poses a continuing threat,” and that, “the risks to the regime’s long-term stability are increasing.”[2]

On Friday, 14 January 2011, the U.S.-supported 23-year long dictatorship of Tunisian president Ben Ali ended.

 

For several weeks prior to this, the Tunisian people had risen in protest against rising food prices, stoked on by an immense and growing dissatisfaction with the political repression, and prodded by the WikiLeaks cables confirming the popular Tunisian perception of gross corruption on the part of the ruling family. The spark, it seems, was when a 26-year old unemployed youth set himself on fire in protest on December 17.

With the wave of protests sparked by the death of the 26-year old who set himself on fire on December 17, the government of Tunisia responded by cracking down on the protesters. Estimates vary, but roughly 100 people were killed in the clashes.

 

Half of Tunisia’s 10 million people are under the age of 25, meaning that they have never known a life in Tunisia outside of living under this one dictator. Since Independence from the French empire in 1956, Tunisia has had only two leaders: Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali.[3]

 

The Tunisian people were rising up against a great many things: an oppressive dictatorship which has employed extensive information and internet censorship, rising food prices and inflation, a corrupt ruling family, lack of jobs for the educated youth, and a general sense and experience of exploitation, subjugation and disrespect for human dignity.

Following the ouster of Ben Ali, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi assumed presidential power and declared a “transitional government.” Yet, this just spurred more protests demanding his resignation and the resignation of the entire government.

 

Significantly, the trade union movement had a large mobilizing role in the protests, with a lawyers union being particularly active during the initial protests.[4]
 

Protests in Tunisia
 

Social media and the Internet did play a large part in mobilizing people within Tunisia for the uprising, but it was ultimately the result of direct protests and action which led to the resignation of Ben Ali.

 

Thus, referring to Tunisia as a “Twitter Revolution” is disingenuous. Twitter, WikiLeaks, Facebook, Youtube, forums and blogs did have a part to play.

 

They reflect the ability,

“to collectively transform the Arab information environment and shatter the ability of authoritarian regimes to control the flow of information, images, ideas and opinions.”[5]

 

[Editors Note: The US based foundation Freedom House was involved in promoting and training some Middle East North Africa Facebook and Twitter bloggers (See also Freedom House), M.C.]

 

 

We must also keep in mind that social media has not only become an important source of mobilization of activism and information at the grassroots level, but it has also become an effective means for governments and various power structures to seek to manipulate the flow of information.

 

This was evident in the 2009 protests in Iran, where social media became an important avenue through which the Western nations were able to advance their strategy of supporting the so-called 'Green Revolution' in destabilizing the Iranian government. Thus, social media has presented a new form of power, neither black nor white, in which it can be used to either advance the process of the 'Awakening' or control its direction.

Whereas America was publicly denouncing Iran for blocking (or attempting to block) social media in the summer of 2009, during the first several weeks of Tunisian protests (which were largely being ignored by Western media), America and the West were silent about censorship.[6]

 

Steven Cook, writing for the elite U.S. think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, commented on the lack of attention being paid to the Tunisian protests in the early weeks of resistance prior to the resignation of Ben Ali. He explained that while many assume that the Arab “strongmen” regimes will simply maintain power as they always have, this could be mistaken.

 

He stated that,

“it may not be the last days of Ben Ali or Mubarak or any other Middle Eastern strongman, but there is clearly something going on in the region.”

However, it was the end of Ben Ali, and indeed,

“there is clearly something going on in the region.”[7]

France’s President Sarkozy has even had to admit that,

“he had underestimated the anger of the Tunisian people and the protest movement that ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.”

During the first few weeks of protests in Tunisia, several French government officials were publicly supporting the dictatorship, with the French Foreign Minister saying that France would lend its police “knowhow” to help Ben Ali in maintaining order.[8]

Days before the ouster of Ben Ali, Hillary Clinton gave an interview in which she explained how America was worried,

“about the unrest and the instability,” and that, “we are not taking sides, but we are saying we hope that there can be a peaceful resolution. And I hope that the Tunisian Government can bring that about.”

Clinton further lamented,

“One of my biggest concerns in this entire region are the many young people without economic opportunities in their home countries.”[9]

Her concern, of course, does not spur from any humanitarian considerations, but rather from inherent imperial considerations:

it is simply harder to control a region of the world erupting in activism, uprisings and revolution.

 


The Spark Lights a Flame

Tunisia has raised the bar for the people across the Arab world to demand justice, democracy, accountability, economic stability, and freedom.

 

Just as Tunisia’s protests were in full-swing, Algeria was experiencing mass protests, rising up largely as a result of the increasing international food prices, but also in reaction to many of the concerns of the Tunisian protesters, such as democratic accountability, corruption and freedom.

 

A former Algerian diplomat told Al-Jazeera in early January that,

“It is a revolt, and probably a revolution, of an oppressed people who have, for 50 years, been waiting for housing, employment, and a proper and decent life in a very rich country.”[10]

In mid-January, similar protests erupted in Jordan, as thousands took to the streets to protest against rising food prices and unemployment, chanting anti-government slogans.

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II had,

“set up a special task force in his palace that included military and intelligence officials to try to prevent the unrest from escalating further,” which had tanks surrounding major cities, with barriers and checkpoints established.[11]

In Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, engulfed in a U.S. sponsored war against its own people, ruled by a dictator who has been in power since 1978, thousands of people protested against the government, demanding the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

 

In the capitol city of Sanaa, thousands of students, activists and opposition groups chanted slogans such as,

“Get out get out, Ali. Join your friend Ben Ali.”[12]

Yemen has been experiencing much turmoil in recent years, with a rebel movement in the North fighting against the government, formed in 2004; as well as a massive secessionist movement in the south, called the “Southern Movement,” fighting for liberation since 2007.

 

As the Financial Times explained:

Many Yemen observers consider the anger and secessionist sentiment now erupting in the south to be a greater threat to the country’s stability than its better publicized struggle with al-Qaeda, and the deteriorating economy is making the tension worse.

Unemployment, particularly among the young, is soaring. Even the government statistics office in Aden puts it at nearly 40 per cent among men aged 20 to 24.[13]

 


Protest of the Southern Movement in Yemen
 

On January 21, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Albania, mobilized by the socialist opposition, ending with violent clashes between the police and protesters, leading to the deaths of three demonstrators.

 

The protests have been sporadic in Albania since the widely contested 2009 elections, but took on new levels inspired by Tunisia.[14]

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom stressed concern over the revolutionary sentiments within the Arab world, saying that,

“I fear that we now stand before a new and very critical phase in the Arab world.” He fears Tunisia would “set a precedent that could be repeated in other countries, possibly affecting directly the stability of our system.”[15]

Israel’s leadership fears democracy in the Arab world, as they have a security alliance with the major Arab nations, who, along with Israel itself, are American proxy states in the region.

 

Israel maintains civil - if not quiet - relationships with the Arab monarchs and dictators. While the Arab states publicly criticize Israel, behind closed doors they are forced to quietly accept Israel’s militarism and war-mongering, lest they stand up against the superpower, America. Yet, public opinion in the Arab world is extremely anti-Israel, anti-American and pro-Iran.

In July of 2010, the results of a major international poll were released regarding public opinion in the Arab world, polling from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

 

Among some of the notable findings:

While Obama was well received upon entering the Presidency, with 51% expressing optimism about U.S. policy in the region in the Spring of 2009, by Summer 2010, 16% were expressing optimism. In 2009, 29% of those polled said a nuclear-armed Iran would be positive for the region; in 2010, that spiked to 57%, reflecting a very different stance from that of their governments.[16]

While America, Israel and the leaders of the Arab nations claim that Iran is the greatest threat to peace and stability in the Middle East, the Arab people do not agree. In an open question asking which two countries pose the greatest threat to the region, 88% responded with Israel, 77% with America, and 10% with Iran.[17]

At the Arab economic summit shortly following the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia, who was for the first time absent from the meetings, the Tunisian uprising hung heavy in the air.

 

Arab League leader Amr Moussa said in his opening remarks at the summit,

“The Tunisian revolution is not far from us,” and that, “the Arab citizen entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration,” noting that "the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession.”

The significance of this ‘threat’ to the Arab leaders cannot be understated. Out of roughly 352 million Arabs, 190 million are under the age of 24, with nearly three-quarters of them unemployed.

 

Often,

“the education these young people receive doesn't do them any good because there are no jobs in the fields they trained for.”[18]

There was even an article in the Israeli intellectual newspaper, Ha’aretz, which posited that, “Israel may be on the eve of revolution.” Explaining, the author wrote that:

Israeli civil society organizations have amassed considerable power over the years; not only the so-called leftist organizations, but ones dealing with issues like poverty, workers' rights and violence against women and children. All of them were created in order to fill the gaps left by the state, which for its part was all too happy to continue walking away from problems that someone else was there to take on.

 

The neglect is so great that Israel's third sector - NGOs, charities and volunteer organizations - is among the biggest in the world. As such, it has quite a bit of power.[19]

Now the Israeli Knesset and cabinet want that power back; yet, posits the author, they,

“have chosen to ignore the reasons these groups became powerful,” namely:

The source of their power is the vacuum, the criminal policies of Israel's governments over the last 40 years. The source of their power is a government that is evading its duties to care for all of its citizens and to end the occupation, and a Knesset that supports the government instead of putting it in its place.[20]

The Israeli Knesset opened investigations into the funding of Israeli human rights organizations in a political maneuver against them. However, as one article in Ha’aretz by an Israeli professor explained, these groups actually - inadvertently - play a role in “entrenching the occupation.”

 

As the author explained:

Even if the leftist groups' intention is to ensure upholding Palestinian rights, though, the unintentional result of their activity is preserving the occupation. Moderating and restraining the army's activity gives it a more human and legal facade.

 

Reducing the pressure of international organizations, alongside moderating the Palestinian population's resistance potential, enable the army to continue to maintain this control model over a prolonged period of time.[21]

Thus, if the Israeli Knesset succeeds in getting rid of these powerful NGOs, they sow the seeds for the pressure valve in the occupied territories to be removed.

 

The potential for massive internal protests within Israel from the left, as well as the possibility of another Intifada - uprising - in the occupied territories themselves would seem dramatically increased. Israel and the West have expressed how much distaste they hold for democracy in the region.

 

When Gaza held a democratic election in 2006 and elected Hamas, which was viewed as the ‘wrong’ choice by Israel and America, Israel imposed a ruthless blockade of Gaza.

 

Richard Falk, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian territories, wrote an article for Al Jazeera in which he explained that the blockade:

Unlawfully restricted to subsistence levels, or below, the flow of food, medicine, and fuel. This blockade continues to this day, leaving the entire Gazan population locked within the world's largest open-air prison, and victimized by one of the cruelest forms of belligerent occupation in the history of warfare.[22]

The situation in the occupied territories is made increasingly tense with the recent leaking of the “Palestinian Papers,” which consist of two decades of secret Israeli-Palestinian accords, revealing the weak negotiating position of the Palestinian Authority.

 

The documents consist largely of major concessions the Palestinian Authority was willing to make,

“on the issues of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, territorial concessions, and the recognition of Israel.”

Among the leaks, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede nearly all of East Jerusalem to Israel.

 

Further, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (favored by Israel and America over Hamas), was personally informed by a senior Israeli official the night before Operation Cast Lead, the December 2008 and January 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 Palestinians:

“Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza.”[23]

Hamas has subsequently called on Palestinian refugees to protest over the concessions regarding the ‘right of return’ for refugees, of which the negotiators conceded to allowing only 100,000 of 5 million to return to Israel.[24]

 

A former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt lamented that,

“The concern will be that this might cause further problems in moving forward.”[25]

However, while being blamed for possibly preventing the “peace process” from moving forward, what the papers reveal is that the “peace process” itself is a joke.

 

The Palestinian Authority’s power is derivative of the power Israel allows it to have, and was propped up as a method of dealing with an internal Palestinian elite, thus doing what all colonial powers have done. The papers, then, reveal how the so-called Palestinian ‘Authority’ does not truly speak or work for the interests of the Palestinian people. And while this certainly will divide the PA from Hamas, they were already deeply divided as it was.

 

Certainly, this will pose problems for the “peace process,” but that’s assuming it is a ‘peaceful’ process in the first part.
 

 


Is Egypt on the Edge of Revolution?

Unrest is even spreading to Egypt, personal playground of U.S.-supported and armed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981.

 

Egypt is the main U.S. ally in North Africa, and has for centuries been one of the most important imperial jewels first for the Ottomans, then the British, and later for the Americans. With a population of 80 million, 60% of which are under the age of 30, who make up 90% of Egypt’s unemployed, the conditions are ripe for a repeat in Egypt of what happened in Tunisia.[26]

On January 25, 2011, Egypt experienced its “day of wrath,” in which tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest against rising food prices, corruption, and the oppression of living under a 30-year dictatorship.

 

The demonstrations were organized through the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. When the protests emerged, the government closed access to these social media sites, just as the Tunisian government did in the early days of the protests that led to the collapse of the dictatorship.

 

As one commentator wrote in the Guardian:

Egypt is not Tunisia. It’s much bigger. Eighty million people, compared with 10 million. Geographically, politically, strategically, it's in a different league - the Arab world's natural leader and its most populous nation. But many of the grievances on the street are the same. Tunis and Cairo differ only in size. If Egypt explodes, the explosion will be much bigger, too.[27]

In Egypt,

“an ad hoc coalition of students, unemployed youths, industrial workers, intellectuals, football fans and women, connected by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, instigated a series of fast-moving, rapidly shifting demos across half a dozen or more Egyptian cities.”

The police responded with violence, and three protesters were killed.

 

With tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets, Egypt saw the largest protests in decades, if not under the entire 30-year reign of President Mubarak. Is Egypt on the verge of revolution? It seems too soon to tell.

 

Egypt, it must be remembered, is the second major recipient of U.S. military assistance in the world (following Israel), and thus, its police state and military apparatus are far more advanced and secure than Tunisia’s. Clearly, however, something is stirring.

 

As Hilary Clinton said on the night of the protests,

“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.”[28]

In other words:

“We continue to support tyranny and dictatorship over democracy and liberation.”

So what else is new?
 

Egyptian Protest, 25 January 2011
 

According to some estimates, as many as 50,000 protesters turned out in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other Egyptian cities.[29]  The protests were met with the usual brutality: beating protesters, firing tear gas and using water cannons to attempt to disperse the protesters.

 

As images and videos started emerging out of Egypt,

“television footage showed demonstrators chasing police down side streets. One protester climbed into a fire engine and drove it away.”[30]

Late on the night of the protests, rumors and unconfirmed reports were spreading that the first lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, may have fled Egypt to London, following on the heels of rumors that Mubarak’s son, and presumed successor, had also fled to London.[31]
 

 


Are We Headed for a Global Revolution?

During the first phase of the global economic crisis in December of 2008, the IMF warned governments of the prospect of “violent unrest on the streets.”

 

The head of the IMF warned that,

“violent protests could break out in countries worldwide if the financial system was not restructured to benefit everyone rather than a small elite.”[32]

In January of 2009, Obama’s then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the greatest threat to the National Security of the U.S. was not terrorism, but the global economic crisis:

I’d like to begin with the global economic crisis, because it already looms as the most serious one in decades, if not in centuries ... Economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they are prolonged for a one- or two-year period... And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways into the international community.[33]

In 2007, a British Defense Ministry report was released assessing global trends in the world over the next 30 years.

 

In assessing “Global Inequality”, the report stated that over the next 30 years:

[T]he gap between rich and poor will probably increase and absolute poverty will remain a global challenge... Disparities in wealth and advantage will therefore become more obvious, with their associated grievances and resentments, even among the growing numbers of people who are likely to be materially more prosperous than their parents and grandparents.

 

Absolute poverty and comparative disadvantage will fuel perceptions of injustice among those whose expectations are not met, increasing tension and instability, both within and between societies and resulting in expressions of violence such as disorder, criminality, terrorism and insurgency.

 

They may also lead to the resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies, possibly linked to religious, anarchist or nihilist movements, but also to populism and the revival of Marxism.[34]

Further, the report warned of the dangers to the established powers of a revolution emerging from the disgruntled middle classes:

The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx. The globalization of labour markets and reducing levels of national welfare provision and employment could reduce peoples’ attachment to particular states.

 

The growing gap between themselves and a small number of highly visible super-rich individuals might fuel disillusion with meritocracy, while the growing urban under-classes are likely to pose an increasing threat to social order and stability, as the burden of acquired debt and the failure of pension provision begins to bite.

 

Faced by these twin challenges, the world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.[35]

We have now reached the point where the global economic crisis has continued beyond the two-year mark.

 

The social repercussions are starting to be felt - globally - as a result of the crisis and the coordinated responses to it. Since the global economic crisis hit the ‘Third World’ the hardest, the social and political ramifications will be felt there first. In the context of the current record-breaking hikes in the cost of food, food riots will spread around the world as they did in 2007 and 2008, just prior to the outbreak of the economic crisis.

 

This time, however, things are much worse economically, much more desperate socially, and much more oppressive politically. This rising discontent will spread from the developing world to the comfort of our own homes in the West.

 

Once the harsh realization sets in that the economy is not in ‘recovery,’ but rather in a Depression, and once our governments in the West continue on their path of closing down the democratic façade and continue dismantling rights and freedoms, increasing surveillance and ‘control,’ while pushing increasingly militaristic and war-mongering foreign policies around the world (mostly in an effort to quell or crush the global awakening being experienced around the world), we in the West will come to realize that ‘We are all Tunisians.’

In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his famous speech “Beyond Vietnam”:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society.

 

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.[36]


 


Notes

[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html; “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009); The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign. The American Interest Magazine, Autumn 2005: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=56; The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership. Speech at the Carnegie Council: March 25, 2004: http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/4424.html; America’s Geopolitical Dilemmas. Speech at the Canadian International Council and Montreal Council on Foreign Relations: April 23, 2010: http://www.onlinecic.org/resourcece/multimedia/americasgeopoliticaldilemmas

[2] Embassy Tunis, TROUBLED TUNISIA: WHAT SHOULD WE DO?, WikiLeaks Cables, 17 July 2009: http://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html

[3] Mona Eltahawy, Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution, The Washington Post, 15 January 2011: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011405084.html

[4] Eileen Byrne, Protesters make the case for peaceful change, The Financial Times, 15 January 2011: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/82293e38-20ae-11e0-a877-00144feab49a.html#axzz1C08RDtxu

[5] Marc Lynch, Tunisia and the New Arab Media Space, Foreign Policy, 15 January 2011: http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/01/15/tunisia_and_the_new_arab_media_space

[6] Jillian York, Activist crackdown: Tunisia vs Iran, Al-Jazeera, 9 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/20111981222719974.html

[7] Steven Cook, The Last Days of Ben Ali? The Council on Foreign Relations, 6 January 2011: http://blogs.cfr.org/cook/2011/01/06/the-last-days-of-ben-ali/

[8] Angelique Chrisafis, Sarkozy admits France made mistakes over Tunisia, The Guardian, 24 January 2011: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/24/nicolas-sarkozy-tunisia-protests

[9] Hillary Rodham Clinton, Interview With Taher Barake of Al Arabiya, U.S. Department of State, 11 January 2011: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/01/154295.htm

[10] Algeria set for crisis talks, Al-Jazeera, 8 January 2011: http://aljazeera.co.uk/news/africa/2011/01/2011187476735721.html

[11] Alexandra Sandels, JORDAN: Thousands of demonstrators protest food prices, denounce government, Los Angeles Times Blog, 15 January 2011: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/01/jordan-protests-food-prices-muslim-brotherhood-tunisia-strike-thousands-government.html

[12] AP, Thousands demand ouster of Yemen's president, Associated Press, 22 January 2011: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g3b2emEy39Bn52Z_haypKxNPGMSw?docId=d324160638a74e84b874baeada16bb4c

[13] Abigail Fielding-Smith, North-south divide strains Yemen union, The Financial Times, 12 January 2011: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c7c59322-1e80-11e0-87d2-00144feab49a.html#axzz1C08RDtxu

[14] EurActiv, 'Jasmine' revolt wave reaches Albania, 24 January 2011: http://www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/jasmine-revolt-wave-reaches-albania-news-501529

[15] Clemens Höges, Bernhard Zand and Helene Zuber, Arab Rulers Fear Spread of Democracy Fever, Der Spiegel, 25 January 2011: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,741545,00.html

[16] Shibley Telhami, Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010, 5 August 2010: http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/0805_arab_opinion_poll_telhami.aspx

[17] Shibley Telhami, A shift in Arab views of Iran, Los Angeles Times, 14 August 2010: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/14/opinion/la-oe-telhami-arab-opinions-20100814

[18] Clemens Höges, Bernhard Zand and Helene Zuber, Arab Rulers Fear Spread of Democracy Fever, Der Spiegel, 25 January 2011: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,741545,00.html

[19] Merav Michaeli, Israel may be on the eve of revolution, Ha’aretz, 17 January 2011: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-may-be-on-the-eve-of-revolution-1.337445

[20] Ibid.

[21] Yagil Levy, Israeli NGOs are entrenching the occupation, Ha’aretz, 11 January 2011: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israeli-ngos-are-entrenching-the-occupation-1.336331?localLinksEnabled=false

[22] Richard Falk, Ben Ali Tunisia was model US client, Al-Jazeera, 25 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201112314530411972.html

[23] Jack Khoury and Haaretz Service, Two decades of secret Israeli-Palestinian accords leaked to media worldwide, Ha’arets, 23 January 2011: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/two-decades-of-secret-israeli-palestinian-accords-leaked-to-media-worldwide-1.338768

[24] Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Hamas urges Palestinian refugees to protest over concessions on right of return, Ha’aretz, 25 January 2011: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-urges-palestinian-refugees-to-protest-over-concessions-on-right-of-return-1.339120

[25] Alan Greenblatt, Palestinian Papers May Be Blow To Peace Process, NPR, 24 January 2011: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/24/133181412/palestinian-papers-may-cause-blow-to-peace-process?ps=cprs

[26] Johannes Stern, Egyptian regime fears mass protests, World Socialist Web Site, 15 January 2011: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/jan2011/egyp-j15.shtml

[27] Simon Tisdall, Egypt protests are breaking new ground, The Guardian, 25 January 2011: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/25/egypt-protests

[28] Ibid.

[29] MATT BRADLEY, Rioters Jolt Egyptian Regime, The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704698004576104112320465414.html

[30] Catrina Stewart, Violence on the streets of Cairo as unrest grows, The Independent, 26 January 2011: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/violence-on-the-streets-of-cairo-as-unrest-grows-2194484.html

[31] IBT, Suzanne Mubarak of Egypt has fled to Heathrow airport in London: unconfirmed reports, International Business Times, 25 January 2011: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/104960/20110125/suzanne-mubarak-of-egypt-has-fled-to-heathrow-airport-in-london-unconfirmed-reports.htm

[32] Angela Balakrishnan, IMF chief issues stark warning on economic crisis. The Guardian: December 18, 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/16/imf-financial-crisis

[33] Stephen C. Webster, US intel chief: Economic crisis a greater threat than terrorism. Raw Story: February 13, 2009: http://rawstory.com/news/2008/US_intel_chief_Economic_crisis_greater_0213.html

[34] DCDC, The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme, 2007-2036, 3rd ed. The Ministry of Defence, January 2007: page 3

[35] Ibid, page 81.

[36] Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2

America’s Strategic Repression of the ‘Arab Awakening’
February 9, 2011
 

Overview

In Part 1 of this series, I analyzed the changing nature of the Arab world, in experiencing an uprising as a result of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ Ultimately, I assessed that these could potentially be the birth pangs of a global revolution; however, the situation is more complicated than it appears on the surface.

While the uprisings spreading across the Arab world have surprised many observers, the same could not be said for the American foreign policy and strategic establishment.

 

A popular backlash against American-supported dictatorships and repressive regimes has been anticipated for a number of years, with arch-hawk geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski articulating a broad conception of a ‘Global Political Awakening’ taking place, in which the masses of the world (predominantly the educated, exploited and impoverished youth of the ‘Third World’) have become acutely aware of their subjugation, inequality, exploitation and oppression.

 

 

This ‘Awakening’ is largely driven by the revolution in information, technology and communication, including radio, television, but most especially the Internet and social media.

 

Brzezinski had accurately identified this ‘Awakening’ as the greatest threat to elite interests regionally, but also internationally, with America sitting on top of the global hierarchy.

This spurred on the development of an American strategy in the Arab world, modeled on similar strategies pursued in recent decades in other parts of the world, in promoting “democratization,” by developing close contacts with ‘civil society’ organizations, opposition leaders, media sources, and student organizations.

 

The aim is not to promote an organic Arab democracy ‘of the people, and for the people,’ but rather to promote an evolutionary “democratization” in which the old despots of American strategic support are removed in favor of a neoliberal democratic system, in which the outward visible institutions of democracy are present (multi-party elections, private media, parliaments, constitutions, active civil society, etc).

 

Yet, the power-holders within that domestic political system remain subservient to U.S. economic and strategic interests, continuing to follow the dictates of the IMF and World Bank, supporting America’s military hegemony in the region, and “opening up” the Arab economies to be “integrated” into the world economy.

 

Thus, “democratization” becomes an incredibly valuable strategy for maintaining hegemony; a modern re-hash of “Let them eat cake!”

 

Give the people the ‘image’ of democracy and establish and maintain a co-dependent relationship with the new elite. Thus, democracy for the people becomes an exercise in futility, where people’s ‘participation’ becomes about voting between rival factions of elites, who all ultimately follow the orders of Washington.

This strategy also has its benefit for the maintenance of American power in the region. While dictators have their uses in geopolitical strategy, they can often become too independent of the imperial power and seek to determine the course of their country separate from U.S. interests, and are subsequently much more challenging to remove from power (i.e., Saddam Hussein).

 

With a “democratized” system, changing ruling parties and leaders becomes much easier, by simply calling elections and supporting opposition parties. Bringing down a dictator is always a more precarious situation than “changing the guard” in a liberal democratic system.

However, again, the situation in the Arab world is still more complicated than this brief overview, and American strategic concerns must take other potentialities into consideration. While American strategists were well aware of the growing threat to stability in the region, and the rising discontent among the majority of the population, the strategists tended to identify the aim as “democratization” through evolution, not revolution. In this sense, the uprisings across the Arab world pose a major strategic challenge for America.

 

While ties have been made with civil society and other organizations, they haven’t all necessarily had the ability to be firmly entrenched, organized and mobilized. In short, it would appear that America was perhaps unprepared for uprisings to take place this soon.

 

The sheer scale and rapid growth of the protests and uprisings makes the situation all the more complicated, since they are not dealing with one nation alone, but rather an entire region (arguably one of, if not the most strategically important region in the world), and yet they must assess and engage the situation on a country-by-country basis.

One danger arises in a repeat in the Arab world of the trends advanced in Latin America over the past decade: namely, the growth of populist democracy. The protests have brought together a wide array of society - civil society, students, the poor, Islamists, opposition leaders, etc. - and so America, with ties to many of these sectors (overtly and covertly), must now make many choices in regards of who to support.

Another incredibly important factor to take into consideration is military intervention. America has firmly established ties with the militaries in this region, and it appears evident that America is influencing military actions in Tunisia. Often, the reflex position of imperial power is to support the military, facilitate a coup, or employ repression. Again, this strategy would be determined on a country-by-country basis.

 

With a popular uprising, military oppression will have the likely effect of exacerbating popular discontent and resistance, so strategic use of military influence is required.

This also leaves us with the potential for the ‘Yemen option’: war and destabilization. While presenting its own potential for negative repercussions (namely, in instigating a much larger and more radical uprising), engaging in overt or covert warfare, destabilizing countries or regions, is not taboo in American strategic circles. In fact, this is the strategy that has been deployed in Yemen since the emergence of the Southern Movement in 2007, a liberation movement seeking secession from the U.S.-supported dictatorship.

 

Shortly after the emergence of the Southern Movement, al-Qaeda appeared in Yemen, prompting U.S. military intervention.

 

The Yemeni military, armed, trained and funded by the United States, has been using its military might to attempt to crush the Southern Movement as well as a rebel movement in the North.

In short, the ‘Arab Awakening’ presents possibly the greatest strategic challenge to American hegemony in decades. The likely result will be a congruence of multiple simultaneously employed strategies including: “democratization,” oppression, military intervention and destabilization.

 

Again, it could be a mistake to assume one strategy for the whole region, but rather to assess it on a country-by-country basis, based upon continuing developments and progress in the ‘Awakening’.
 

 

-   Russia Today   -

Interview with Andrew Gavin Marshall and Adrienne Pine

Egypt riots - US playing both sides?

by RTAmerica

January 31, 2011

from YouTube Website

 

 

 

 



The Council on Foreign Relations Strategy to “Democratize” the Arab World

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is the premier U.S. foreign policy think tank in the United States, and is one of the central institutions for socializing American elites from all major sectors of society (media, banking, academia, military, intelligence, diplomacy, corporations, NGOs, civil society, etc.), where they work together to construct a consensus on major issues related to American imperial interests around the world.

 

As such, the CFR often sets the strategy for American policy, and wields enormous influence within policy circles, where key players often and almost always come from the rank and file of the CFR itself.

In 2005, the CFR published a Task Force Report on a new American strategy for the Arab world entitled, “In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How.”

 

The Task Force was co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber.

 

Albright was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for the first term of President Bill Clinton’s administration, and was U.S. Secretary of State for his second term. As such, she played crucial roles in the lead up and responses to the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide and subsequent civil war and genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she also oversaw the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq.

 

In a 1996 interview with 60 Minutes, when asked about the sanctions resulting in the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, Albright replied,

“we think the price is worth it.”[1]

Albright got her start at Columbia University, where she studied under Zbigniew Brzezinski, her professor who supervised her dissertation.

 

Brzezinski, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. co-founded the Trilateral Commission with banker David Rockefeller in 1973.

 

When Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he brought with him over two dozen members of the Trilateral Commission into his administration, including himself, but also Brzezinski as his National Security Adviser. Brzezinski then offered Madeline Albright a job on his National Security Council staff.[2]

 

Brzezinski also had several other key officials on his Council staff, including Samuel Huntington and Robert Gates, who later became Deputy National Security Adviser, CIA Director, and today is the Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration.

 

As David Rothkopf, former National Security Council staff member wrote in his book on the history of the NSC,

“Brzezinski’s NSC staffers are, to this day, very loyal to their former boss.”[3]

Today, Albright serves on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Trustees for the Aspen Institute, as well as chairing the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an organization dedicated to promoting and funding US-supported “democracy” around the world.

 

Recently, she chaired a NATO committee which developed NATO’s new “strategic concept” over the next decade.

The other co-chair of the CFR Task Force report on Arab democracy is Vin Weber, former U.S. Congressman, who has served on the board of the CFR, and is also a member of the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the premier U.S. organization dedicated to “democratic regime change” around the world in advancing U.S. strategic interests.

 

Other members of the Task Force Report include individuals with past or present affiliations to:

  • Human Rights Watch

  • First National Bank of Chicago

  • Occidental Petroleum

  • the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

  • the World Bank

  • the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)

  • the Brookings Institution

  • the Hoover Institution

  • the National Endowment for Democracy

  • the U.S. State Department

  • National Security Council

  • National Intelligence Council

  • Goldman Sachs Group

  • the American Enterprise Institute

  • AOL Time Warner

  • the IMF [4]

It is very clear that this is a highly influential and active group of individuals and interests which is proposing a new strategy for America in the Arab world, which makes their recommendations not simply ‘advisory’ to policy, but integral to policy formulation and implementation.

 

So what did the CFR report have to say about democracy in the Arab world?

The report stated that,

“Washington has a chance to help shape a more democratic Middle East. Whereas emphasis on stability was once the hallmark of U.S. Middle East policy, democracy and freedom have become a priority.”

The report posed two central questions which it explored:

  • First, does a policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East serve U.S. interests and foreign policy goals?

  • Second, if so, how should the United States implement such a policy, taking into account the full range of its interests?[5]

The answer to the first question was inevitably, “yes,” promoting democracy serves U.S. interests and foreign policy goals in the Middle East.

 

The report elaborated,

“Although democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they will be less likely to turn to more extreme measures.”[6]

However, the CFR report was very cautious about the process of democratic change, and recognized the potential instability and problems it could pose for American interests:

[T]he United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable. America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.[7]

Further, they acknowledged that democracy promotion in the Middle East “requires a country-by-country strategy,”[8] meaning that it cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy, ultimately making the process all the more complicated and potentially unstable.

 

The process is a delicate balancing act, where the report identified that if America’s democracy promotion is too “superficial,” it could,

“further damage relations between the United States and Arab populations,” or, if the United States pushes reform too hard and too fast, “this could create instability and undermine U.S. interests.”

Thus, explained the report, they favor,

“a view toward evolutionary, not revolutionary, change. The dangers that accompany rapid change will still be present, but so will the opportunity to create a new and more balanced foundation for Arab stability, and a deeper and stronger basis for friendship between Americans and Arabs.”[9]

In American diplomatic language, “friendship” should be read as “dependence,” thus we understand this strategy as aiming at promoting a more reliable dependency between Americans and Arabs.

The report, however, acknowledged the deep divisions within U.S. policy circles on the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, with several viewing it as potentially too risky, fearing,

it “may place U.S. interests in jeopardy,” or that it “could lead to ethnic conflict or the emergence of Islamist governments opposed to the United States and the West in general.”

Further,

“if Washington pushes Arab leaders too hard on reform, contributing to the collapse of friendly Arab governments, this would likely have a deleterious effect on regional stability, peace, and counterterrorism operations.”

There is also the risk that with America actively promoting democratic change among Arab civil society and opposition groups, this could potentially damage,

“the credibility of indigenous groups promoting democratic reform,” or, alternatively, “Arab leaders could dig in their heels and actively oppose U.S. policies in the region across the board.”[10]

The latter scenario could be referred to as ‘the Saddam option’, referring, of course, to America’s once-close ally and suddenly-new enemy, Saddam Hussein, who was armed and supported by America.

 

But once he started to become too autonomous of American power, America turned on him and cast him as a “new Hitler.” The case of Saddam Hussein also shows that when a dictator “digs in his heels,” it can often take a very long time to be rid of him.

So while clearly there are a number of potentially disastrous consequences for U.S. interests in promoting democracy in the Arab world, the CFR made their position clear:

While transitions to democracy can lead to instability in the short term, the Task Force finds that a policy geared toward maintaining the authoritarian status quo in the Middle East poses greater risks to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals...

 

If Arabs are allowed to participate freely and peacefully in the political process, they are less likely to turn to radical measures. If they understand that the United States supports their exercise of liberty, they are less likely to sustain hostile attitudes toward the United States...

 

The overwhelming empirical evidence clearly indicates that the best kind of stability is democratic stability.[11]

One pivotal area through which the CFR report advocated implementing the “democratization” of the Arab world was through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), established in 2002 by the Bush administration,

“with the express purpose of coordinating and managing the U.S. government’s reform agenda in the area of economics, politics, education, and women’s issues.”

Much of this work had previously been done through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); however,

“while USAID’s work has focused to some extent on creating constituencies within Arab governments for change, the rationale for MEPI was to work with independent and indigenous NGOs and civil-society groups, as well as with governments.”[12]

Another avenue was the Broader Middle East Initiative (also known as the Partnership for Progress), which emerged from a 2004 G8 summit, of which a main priority was the,

“Forum for the Future,” which is “designed to foster communication on reform-related issues.”

It held sessions that brought together civil society activists, business leaders, emphasizing economic development and job growth.

 

The Partnership for Progress also established the “Democracy Assistance Dialogue,” which brings together development institutions in the Middle East, foundations, international financial institutions (the World Bank and IMF),

“to coordinate the use of resources to support political and economic change.”[13]

In other words, it is a process through which America is seeking to ensure that democratic “transition” in the Arab world maintains American and Western political and economic hegemony.

 

In effect, a change of ‘structure’ without a change of ‘substance,’ where the image of the state alters, but the power and purpose remains the same.

However, further problems for the democratization strategy were presented in the unwillingness of European nations to support it or take it seriously. As the Task Force report explained,

“European reluctance undermines the potential efficacy of pursuing reform.”

The report further explained the importance of having Europe as a partner in the project:

Despite a history of European colonial domination, the perception of Europe in the Arab world is better than that of the United States. Consequently, it may be helpful for the European Union to take the lead in promoting human rights in the Arab world.[14]

The Task Force recommended that it would be best if funding for Arab civil society organizations did not come directly from U.S. government institutions, but rather funneled through U.S. democracy-promotion groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as,

“many Middle eastern NGOs are reluctant to accept direct transfers from an arm of the U.S. government, fearing that this would taint these organizations in the eyes of their constituencies.”[15]

In the conclusion, the report stated that:

Although a policy predicated on political, economic, and social change in the Arab world may present some short-term risks to Washington’s interests, these risks are worth taking.

 

The long-run benefits of a more democratic and economically developed Middle East outweigh the potential challenges Washington might confront in the foreseeable future.[16]

We must acknowledge, however, that this strategy is not aimed at promoting democracy for the sake of democracy and freedom, but rather that it is acknowledging the reality that is the ‘Global Political Awakening,’ and taking efforts to address and manipulate this ‘Awakening’ in such a way that serves U.S. interests.

 

Thus, it amounts to a scenario akin to saying, “Let them eat cake!”.

 

If the Arab world screams out for democracy and freedom, give them the American-sponsored brand of democracy and freedom, and therefore America is able to undermine and co-opt the ever-increasing desires and forces for change in the region.

 

As a result - if successful - it would have the effect of pacifying resistance to America’s hegemony in the region, legitimizing the new puppet governments as “democratic” and “representative” of the people, thus creating a more stable and secure environment for American interests.

 

In short, this is a coordinated strategy to confront, manipulate and pacify the emergence of the Global Political Awakening in the Arab world; an assault against the ‘Arab Awakening.’

In my last essay on the subject, I identified these protests as an organic growth, a rallying cry for freedom from the Arab world which must not be simply discarded as a covert U.S. plot to install new regimes.

 

However, the situation requires a much more nuanced and detailed examination, not to frame it in either a black or white context, but rather seek to explain the realities, challenges and opportunities of the ‘Awakening’ and the ‘uprisings’.
 

 


Conceptualizing the ‘Arab Awakening’

For years, arch-hawk American imperial geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, an intellectual architect of ‘globalization’, has been warning elites across the Western world, and in particular in America, of the emergence and pressing reality of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’

 

He explains the ‘Awakening’ as essentially the greatest historical challenge to not only American, but global power structures and interests.

 

He explained that,

“For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive.”

Further,

“the worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening... That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.”

As Brzezinski emphasizes,

“These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.”

Brzezinski and others (as evidenced by the Council on Foreign Relations report) are intent upon developing strategies for ‘managing’ and ‘pacifying’ this ‘Awakening’ in such a way that maintains and secures American imperial interests and global power structures.

 

Thus, the need to ‘control’ the Awakening is the most prescient problem in American foreign policy.

 

However, as Brzezinski elaborated, it is not a challenge that can be dealt with easily:

[The] major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.[17]

In a 2008 article in the New York Times, Brzezinski emphasized a multi-faceted strategy for dealing with this ‘threat’ to elite structures and interests, explaining that,

“the monumental task facing the new president is to regain U.S. global legitimacy by spearheading a collective effort for a more inclusive system of global management.”

Thus, Brzezinski’s strategy rests on better securing and institutionally expanding the process of ‘globalization’ into the evolution of ‘global governance,’ or as he termed it, “global management.”

 

Brzezinski unveiled a four-point strategy of response:

“unify, enlarge, engage and pacify.” [18]

The response to ‘unify’ refers “to the effort to re-establish a shared sense of purpose between America and Europe,” a point that the CFR report acknowledged.

 

To ‘enlarge’ refers to,

“a deliberate effort to nurture a wider coalition committed to the principle of interdependence and prepared to play a significant role in promoting more effective global management.”[19]

He identified the G8 as having “outlived its function,” and proposed a widening of it, which ultimately manifested itself in 2009 in the form of the G20.

 

The G20 has subsequently become,

“the prime group for global economic governance at the level of ministers, governors and heads of state or government.”[20]

Herman von Rompuy, the President of the European Union, referred to 2009 as,

“the first year of global governance.”[21]

So, these elites are intent upon advancing “global management,” which is the exact strategy Brzezinski also identifies as being the “solution” to managing the ‘Global Political Awakening.’

The next point in Brzezinski’s strategy - ‘engage’ - refers to,

“the cultivation of top officials through informal talks among key powers, specifically the U.S., the European Triad, China, Japan, Russia and possibly India,” in particular between the United States and China, as, “without China, many of the problems we face collectively cannot be laid to rest.”

In the final point - ‘pacify’ - Brzezinski referred to the requirements of,

“a deliberate U.S. effort to avoid becoming bogged down in the vast area ranging from Suez to India.”

In particular, he advised moving forward on the Israel-Palestine issue, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

 

Brzezinski explained that,

“in this dynamically changing world, the crisis of American leadership could become the crisis of global stability.”

Thus, from Brzezinski’s point of view,

“The only alternative to a constructive American role is global chaos.” [22]

So, “control” is key to this strategy, with “global management” being the ultimate solution.

 

However, as Brzezinski himself identified, which is important to keep in mind when assessing the nature, spread and mobilization of the ‘Awakening’:

“To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.”[23]

Thus, while attempting to engineer, co-opt and ‘control’ the ‘Awakening,’ it is important to acknowledge that the United States is playing with fire, and while attempting to light a controlled fire to manipulate as it so chooses, the fire can spread and get out of hand.

 

In such a situation, the “lethality” of America’s “military might” could potentially be employed.

 

He said it himself,

“the only alternative to a constructive American role is global chaos.”[24]

The age-old imperial tactic of divide and conquer is never off the table of options. If it cannot be “managed transition” then it often becomes “managed chaos.” Where ‘diplomacy’ fails to overcome barriers, war destroys them (and everything else in the process).

Now turning our attention to the ‘Arab Awakening’ and uprisings, we must examine the range of strategies that are and could be employed.

 

The preferred route for American power is “democratization,” but the scope, velocity and rapidity of recent developments in the Arab world present an incredibly unstable situation for American strategy.

 

While ties with civil society and opposition groups have been or are in the process of being well established (varying on a country-by-country basis), the rapidity and confluence of these uprisings taking place has American power stretched thin.

Engineering, co-opting and controlling revolutionary movements or “democratic regime change” is not a new tactic in the American strategic circles; however, it has in the past been largely relegated to specific pockets and nations, often with significant time in between in order to allow for a more delicate, coordinated and controlled undertaking.

 

This was the case with the U.S.-sponsored ‘colour revolutions’ throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, starting with,

  • Serbia in 2000

  • Georgia in 2003

  • Ukraine in 2004

  • Kyrgyzstan in 2005,

...where America’s premier democracy promotion organizations (the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, USAID, Freedom House, the Albert Einstein Institute, as well as major American philanthropic foundations) were able to more securely establish themselves and their strategies for “democratic regime change.”

 

Further, all the incidents of democratic “regime change” listed above took place in the context of a contested election within the country, giving the organizations and foundations involved a precise timeline for managing the process of organization and mobilization.

 

This required a focused and nuanced approach which remains absent from the current context in the Middle East and North Africa. (See Color-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III)

Further, a similar strategy was undertaken in Iran for the summer of 2009, in which the ‘Green Movement’ arose in response to the contested Presidential elections.

 

This was, in fact, an attempt at a highly coordinated and organized effort on the part of a covert American strategy of “democratization” to install a U.S.-friendly (i.e., ‘client’) regime in Iran. The strategy was developed in 2006, largely organized covertly by the CIA, at a cost of approximately $400 million, and involved the State Department coordinating efforts with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

 

However, as posterity shows, the strategy did not ultimately succeed in imposing “regime change.”

 

At the time, Zbigniew Brzezinski explained that the strategy would require,

“patience, intelligent manipulation, moral support, but no political interference.”

A New World War for a New World Order

So we can see that even with $400 million and a highly coordinated attempt at “intelligent manipulation,” the strategy did not succeed.

 

However, it must be acknowledged that the U.S. could not overtly fund opposition and civil society organizations in Iran as it could in Eastern Europe. In the Arab world, while America has and continues to engage with opposition groups and civil society organizations, these efforts have been consistently thwarted and hampered by the domestic Arab regimes, which are well aware of the threat to their own power this could pose.

 

Managing such a strategy in countries run by authoritarian regimes that are very suspicious of civil society and opposition groups presents an incredibly challenging scenario for American strategy. Further, authoritarian regimes generally do not hold elections, unless it is simply a sham election in which the leader wins by a margin of 97%, presenting a difficult scenario in which to mobilize opposition forces.

 

Moreover, the ‘colour revolutions’ throughout Eastern Europe were largely organized through a strategy of bringing together all the opposition groups to stand behind one leader, to make the effort much more coordinated and cohesive.

 

No such strategy seems to have emerged in the Arab world, and has appeared as a patched-up effort of attempting to promote particular opposition figures, but nothing that is evidently well-organized and pre-planned. While many opposition groups are working closely together to oppose the regimes, they are not necessarily being mobilized around any clear and absolute leaders, thus presenting the potential for a power vacuum to open up, making the situation all the more dangerous for American interests.

Another major problem inherent in this strategy in the Arab world is the role being played by the domestic militaries.

 

The militaries within the authoritarian Arab regimes are largely supported, funded, trained and armed by America, and have become powerful political, social and economic actors in their own right (more so in Egypt than Tunisia).

 

Thus, America must balance the process of supporting civil society and opposition groups with that of continuing to support and secure the military structures. If the militaries feel that their position is insecure or threatened, they may simply overtake the entire process and engineer a coup, which is ultimately counter-productive to the American strategy in the region, especially since it is widely known that America is the principle sponsor of these military structures.

 

This implies that America must undertake a delicate balancing act between the military, civil society and opposition groups in coordinating the removal of the entrenched despots.

 

This strategy seems to be materializing itself in the form of constructing “transitional governments,” which the militaries in both Tunisia and Egypt are supporting.

The situation is intensely complicated and conflicting, presenting America with one of its greatest challenges in recent history. While the obvious intent and even the means of organizing “democratic regime change” in the Arab world are present, I believe the rapidity in which the protest movements and uprisings have emerged could have taken America somewhat off-guard.

 

No doubt, from the beginnings of the Tunisian protests in December of 2010, America was paying detailed attention to the situation, attempting to influence the outcome. However, Western media coverage of the first four weeks of protests was minimal, if not altogether absent. This is an important point to address.

For all the other organized efforts at “democratic regime change” and “colour revolutions,” Western media played a critical role. From the moments protests began in these countries, Western media outlets were covering the events extensively, espousing the righteousness of the aims of “democratization” and “freedom,” in full and active support of the demonstrators.

 

This was absent in Tunisia, until of course, the President fled to Saudi Arabia, when suddenly Western media cynically proclaimed a monumental achievement for democracy, and started warning the rest of the Arab world of the potential for this to spread to their countries (thus, applying public pressure to promote “reforms” in line with their strategy of “evolution, not revolution.”).

 

This could imply that America was trying to quietly manage the protests in Tunisia, which did not arise in a pre-coordinated and previously established timeline, but rather sprung up as a rapid response to a suicide of a young man in a personal protest against the government. The spark was lit, and America advanced on Tunisia in an attempt to control its growth and direction.

 

Meanwhile, however, sparks ignited across many nations in the Arab world, including,

  • Algeria

  • Egypt

  • Morocco

  • Jordan

  • Yemen

Subsequently, America took advantage of these sparks to ignite the process in a direction it would seek to control.

 

For the first few days and even weeks of protests in many of the other nations, appearing by and large to be organic reactions to events in Tunisia and within their own countries, a more coordinated response was undertaken, with the massive organized protests emerging suddenly.

 

Yet, America is potentially stretching itself very thin, possibly risking as much or more than it has to gain. Like a cornered animal, America is simultaneously incredibly vulnerable and incredibly dangerous.

 

Remembering Brzezinski’s words regarding the problem of ‘control’ is an important factor to take into consideration:

“in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.”[25]

This could potentially be referred to as the ‘Yemen Option,’ in which the strategy entails an effort to promote destabilization, military intervention, covert and overt warfare.

 

In such a scenario, it is essential for America to maintain and, in fact, strengthen its contacts and relationships with domestic military structures.

So, clearly the situation is not and should not be addressed in a black-and-white analysis. It is intensely complicated, multi-faceted and potentially disastrous. No outcome is preordained or absolute: thus, while acknowledging and examining the evidence for America’s deep involvement in the evolution and direction of the protests and opposition, we must keep this analysis within the context of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’

 

I argued in Part 1 above, of this essay that it does, in fact, seem as if we are seeing the emergence of a global revolution; yet, this is likely a process that will stretch out certainly over the next one, if not several, decades.

 

We cannot simply dismiss these protests as American machinations and covert operations, but rather as an effort for America to control the ‘Awakening’.

 

As the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report emphasized,

“America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[26]

It seems as if this strategy either changed in the intermittent years, or America has been thrown out of its incremental strategy of “evolution” and into the strategy of being forced to respond to and seek to direct “revolution.”

 

This makes the situation all the more dangerous for American interests. Thus, we cannot dismiss the uprisings as entirely “orchestrated,” but instead understand them in the context of the ‘Global Awakening.’

Taking the position that everything is organized from on high in the corridors of power is a flawed analysis. Alternatively, taking the position that America was caught entirely unaware of this situation is naïve and the evidence does not support this assessment. However, we must not see this as an either-or development, but rather a congruence of over-lapping and inter-twining developments.

 

Society, after all, while being directed from above, must react to the responses and developments from below; and thus, society itself and the direction it takes is a highly complex interaction of different, opposing, and conflicting social processes. The claim that the uprisings are the lone result of American strategy neglects the reasons behind the development of this strategy in the first place.

 

The “democratization” strategy did not emerge due to any humanitarian qualms on the part of the U.S. elite for the people living under authoritarian regimes, but rather that the strategy was developed in response to the emergence and growth of the ‘Arab Awakening’ itself. Indeed, in this context, this does mark the beginnings of a global revolution (which has been a long time coming); however, it also marks the active American strategy to control the process and development of the ‘revolution.’

Historically, revolutions are never the product of a one-sided development.

 

That is, revolutions predominantly do not come about through the actions of one segment of society, often polarized as either an elite-driven or people-driven revolution, but rather they come about through a complex interaction and balancing of various social groups. The context and conditions for a revolution often do not emerge without the awareness of the upper classes, therefore, the upper social strata always or often seek to mitigate, control, repress, influence or co-opt and control the process of revolution.

 

In this context, we cannot dismiss revolutions simply as a top-down or bottom-up process, but rather a mitigation and interaction between the two approaches.

American strategic objectives are aimed at ultimately repressing and co-opting the organic revolutionary uprisings in the Arab world. For the past six years or so, America has been developing and starting to implement a strategy to manage to ‘Arab Awakening’ by promoting “democratization” in a process of “evolution, not revolution.”

 

However, the evolution was evidently not fast enough for the people living under the Arab regimes, and revolution is in the air. America, naturally, is desperately attempting to manage the situation and repress a true revolution from spreading across the region, instead promoting an “orderly transition” as Hillary Clinton and President Obama have stressed.

 

Thus, America has been extensively involved in the processes of organizing and establishing “transitional governments” or “unity governments.” If the revolution took its own course, and sought true change, populist democracy and ultimate freedom, it would ultimately be forced to challenge the role and influence of America and the West in the region.

 

As such, military “aid” would need to end (a prospect the domestic militaries are not willing to accept), American influence over and contact with civil society and opposition groups would need to be openly challenged and discussed, the IMF and World Bank would need to be kicked out, international debts would need to be declared “odious” and cancelled, and the people would have to control their own country and become active, engaged and informed citizens.

 

The true revolution will have to be not simply political, but,

  • economic

  • social

  • cultural

  • psychological

  • intellectual

  • and ultimately, global

The protesters must challenge not simply their despotic governments, but must ultimately remove American and Western control over their nations.

 

They must also be very cautious of opposition groups and proposed leaders who are thrust to the front lines and into the government, as they are likely co-opted. The true new leaders should come from the people, and should earn their leadership, not simply be crowned as ‘leaders.’

 

The best possible short-to-medium-term scenario would be to see the emergence of Arab populist democracies, reflecting the trend seen across Latin America (although, not necessarily imposing the same ideologies).

 

The trouble with this scenario is that it is also the most unlikely. If there is one thing that American power despises, it is populist democracy.

 

Since the beginnings of the Cold War until present day, America has actively,

  • overthrown

  • orchestrated coups

  • imposed dictatorships

  • crushed, invaded and occupied

  • bombed and destabilized or implemented “democratic regime change”,

...in populist democracies.

 

Democratic governments that are accountable to the people and seek to help the poor and oppressed make themselves quick enemies of American power.

 

Over the past 60 years, America has repressed or supported the repression of democracies, liberation struggles and attempts at autonomy all over the world:

  • Iran in 1953

  • Guatemala in 1954

  • Haiti in 1959

  • the Congo in 1960

  • Ecuador in 1961

  • Algeria

  • Peru

  • the Dominican Republic

  • Cuba

  • Laos

  • Cambodia

  • Vietnam

  • Chile

  • Argentina

  • Afghanistan

  • Indonesia

  • South Africa

  • Palestine

  • Iraq

  • Venezuela

  • Lebanon

  • Yemen,

...and on and on and on.

The situation is a dangerous and difficult one for the protesters, just as the struggle for freedom and democracy is and has always been.

 

There is a large constituency which have an interest in preventing the emergence of a populist democracy, including many of the pro-democracy organizations and opposition leaders themselves, the great nations of the world - East and West - the World Bank and IMF, international corporations and banks, neighboring Arab regimes, Israel, and of course, America.

 

It is a monumental challenge, but it would be a great disservice to cast aside the protests as controlled and totally co-opted. If that were the case, they would have ceased with the formation of transition and unity governments, which of course they have not.

 

While the outcome is ultimately unknown, what is clear is that a spark has been lit in the Arab world as the ‘Global Political Awakening’ marches on, and this will be a very difficult flame to control.

 


Notes

[1] Rahul Mahakan, “We Think the Price is Worth It,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, November/December 2001: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084

[2] David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (PublicAffairs, 2006), page 17

[3] Ibid, pages 174-175

[4] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 49-54

[5] Ibid, page 3.

[6] Ibid, pages 3-4.

[7] Ibid, page 4.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, pages 11-12.

[10] Ibid, page 12.

[11] Ibid, page 13.

[12] Ibid, pages 36-37.

[13] Ibid, pages 38-39.

[14] Ibid, page 39/

[15] Ibid, page 40.

[16] Ibid, page 43.

[17] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html; “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009); The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign. The American Interest Magazine, Autumn 2005: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=56; The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership. Speech at the Carnegie Council: March 25, 2004: http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/4424.html; America’s Geopolitical Dilemmas. Speech at the Canadian International Council and Montreal Council on Foreign Relations: April 23, 2010: http://www.onlinecic.org/resourcece/multimedia/americasgeopoliticaldilemmas

[18] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[19] Ibid.

[20] Jean-Claude Trichet, Global Governance Today, Keynote address by Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 26 April 2010: http://www.bis.org/review/r100428b.pdf

[21] Herman Von Rompuy, Speech Upon Accepting the EU Presidency, BBC News, 22 November 2009:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzm_R3YBgPg

[22] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[23] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54

[24] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[25] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54

[26] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber,
In Support of Arab Democracy - Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), page 4






 

 



Part 3
Will Tunisia Transition from Tyranny into Democratic Despotism?
February 14, 2011
 

It has been a month since President and dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, sparking the civil disobedience and protests that have since resulted in the fall of one of the Arab world’s strongest and most long-lasting dictators, Hosni Mubarak.

 

Yet, where does Tunisia stand today, and where is it headed in the future?

In Part 1 (well above) of this series, I asked the question, “Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?” I concluded that we are seeing the emergence of a powerful phase in what will be a long road to world revolution, spurred on largely by what is referred to as the ‘Global Political Awakening.’

 

The ‘Awakening’ is driven by the information and communications revolutions, in which people around the world, and in particular in the ‘Third World’ have become increasingly aware of their lack of freedom, economic exploitation, oppression and disrespect. Specifically, the educated youth are the driving force, and the quest for human dignity is the driving impetus.

In Part 2 (above) of this series, I analyzed how American imperial strategy has changed in the past several years to support democratization in the Arab world, not out of any humanitarian qualms regarding supporting oppressive and ruthless tyrants, but out of strategic interest in securing long-term control and hegemony over the region.

 

The strategy of “democratization” is a method of controlling and managing the process and problems inherent in the Global Political Awakening. However, American strategists and think tanks made it clear that they preferred a strategy of democratization supporting “evolution, not revolution.”

 

Thus, when the uprisings and revolutions began, America’s imperial strategists were quick to react in order to attempt to control the situation.

 


The aim, then, is to mitigate and manage the process of change, promoting the idea of “unity” or “transition governments,” so that America may manage the transition into a democratic system that is safe for Western interests, and will produce a political elite subservient to America and Western financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF.

 

This part of the series, “North Africa and the Global Political Awakening,” is a brief examination of the strategy undertaken in Tunisia to pre-empt and subsequently manage the uprising that took place, and where this could likely lead.
 

 


America Anticipated Trouble in Tunisia

According to the Wikileaks diplomatic cables on Tunisia, the issue of succession in Tunisia from the Ben Ali regime were being discussed by the American Embassy in 2006.

 

However, at the time, the Ambassador noted that,

“none of the options suggest Tunisia will become more democratic, but the US-Tunisian bilateral relationship is likely to remain unaffected by the departure of Ben Ali.”

It was discussed that if the President became “temporarily incapacitated” (largely referring to his struggle with cancer), then,

“he could turn over a measure of presidential authority to Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi.”

The Ambassador noted that average Tunisians generally view Ghannouchi,

“with respect and he is well-liked in comparison to other GOT [Government of Tunisia]” and party officials.[1]

Ghannouchi was subsequently the person who stepped in as interim President once Ben Ali fled in 2011, but with very little support among the people, who demanded he resign as well.

In a 2008 cable regarding a meeting with President Ben Ali, it was ironically noted that Ben Ali felt that the situation in Egypt was “explosive” and that,

“sooner or later the Muslim Brotherhood would take over. He added that Yemen and Saudi Arabia are also facing real problems,” emphasizing that the whole region in general is “explosive.”[2]

In July of 2009, a diplomatic cable from the American Embassy in Tunis noted that Tunisia is “troubled,” and that,

“many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities.”

The Ambassador noted that while America seeks to enhance ties with Tunisia commercially and militarily, there are also major setbacks, as,

“we have been blocked, in part, by a Foreign Ministry that seeks to control all our contacts in the government and many other organizations.”

America had successfully accomplished a number of goals, such as,

“increasing substantially US assistance to the military,” and “strengthening commercial ties,” yet, “we have also had too many failures.”

Tunisia had declined USAID to engage in regional programs “to assist young people,” as well as having “reduced the number of Fulbright scholarship students,” which was a specific strategic suggestion made by the Council on Foreign Relations report in 2005 in supporting ‘democratization’ of the Arab world.

 

Further, the Ambassador noted, the Tunisian government “makes it difficult” for the Embassy to maintain contact “with a wide swath of Tunisian society,” adding that government-owned papers,

“often attack Tunisian civil society activists who participate in Embassy activities, portraying them as traitors.”

The government also made it very apparent that it disapproves of Embassy contact with opposition figures,

“as well as civil society activists who criticize the regime.”[3]

In posing the question of - “what should we do?” - the Ambassador explained that America had,

“an interest in keeping the Tunisian military professional and neutral,” as well as “fostering greater political openness.”

The Ambassador emphasized the need,

“to maintain contacts with the few opposition parties and civil society groups critical of the regime.”

Further, the Ambassador stressed the need to mobilize the Europeans to help in pushing for ‘reform,’ as,

“key countries such as France and Italy have shied from putting pressure on the GOT.”

The Ambassador noted that ultimately,

“serious change here will have to await Ben Ali’s departure.”[4]

Many U.S. democracy promotion organizations had established ties to Tunisian civil society organizations and opposition leaders over the past few years, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).[5]

 


‘Democratizing’ Tunisia

As we see from the course of events in Tunisia, America’s strategy of democracy promotion has not necessarily gone according to plan.

 

As the CFR Task Force stressed in 2005,

“America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[6]

This was apparent in the uprising catching America somewhat off guard.

 

Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, Tunisia erupted in protests, inspired by food price hikes, dissatisfaction with corruption, lack of freedoms, and unemployment. The protests were met with police brutality, and were receiving little if any coverage in international media. A hallmark of a U.S.-sponsored democratic “regime change” is to have Western media play a powerful role from the moment the protests erupt, yet the Western media did not pay attention until President Ben Ali fled on 14 January 2011.

 

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi then took over as acting president, handing the position of acting president over to parliamentary speaker Fouad Mebazaa the following day.

 

Fouad Mebazaa then asked the Prime Minister to form a,

“unity government,” saying that a “national unity government in the country's best interests.”[7]

Immediately after Ben Ali fled, the Tunisian military was deployed into the streets to “maintain order” in the face of riots and looting that broke out.

 

Many blamed the riots and looting on militias which,

“are part of the ministry of the interior, or police members, and they are coordinated by heads of police and intelligence in Tunisia.”[8]

Within days, the formation of a unity government was announced, vowing “to work towards democracy,” which resulted in several opposition leaders joining:

“Ahmed Ibrahim, head of the Ettajdid party, Najib Chebbi, founder of the opposition PDP party, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, are all expected to get senior appointments.”

Ibrahim was quoted as saying,

“The main thing for us right now is to stop all this disorder. We are in agreement on several principles concerning the new government.”[9]

Najib Chebbi, leader of the opposition PDP party and member of the,

“unity government,” is a lawyer who “has long been seen by Western diplomats as the most credible figure in the opposition.”[10]

The “unity government” announced that it planned to hold elections within 6 months.

However, the public in the streets were not satisfied with the creation of a “unity government” containing many remnants of the Ben Ali regime, with some activists claiming,

“The new government is a sham. It's an insult to the revolution that claimed lives and blood.”[11]

The military played a powerful role in the Tunisian uprising, most especially by refusing to fire on protesters, which led to Ben Ali fleeing the following day.

 

Two days following Ben Ali’s departure, an Egyptian newspaper reported that Army Chief Rachid Ammar was in immediate contact with the American Embassy in Tunis, according to an officer in the Tunisian National Guard, and that the U.S. Embassy gave instructions to Ammar,

“to take charge of Tunisian affairs if the situation gets out of control.”[12]

In fact, army chief Rachid Ammar vowed to “defend the revolution.”

 

Ammar was speaking to protesters on the 24 of January, as protesters were demanding the unity government resign.

 

He warned protesters,

“Our revolution, your revolution, the revolution of the young, risks being lost... There are forces that are calling for a void, a power vacuum. The void brings terror, which brings dictatorship.”[13]

In other words, the military was aiming to support the “unity government,” and to use its reputation with the people to get them to support it as well.

 

Coincidentally, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (the U.S. Middle east envoy) Jeffrey Feltman, traveled to Tunisia the same day that General Ammar spoke to the crowds, supposedly in order to,

“convey U.S. support to the Tunisian people,” and assess “how the United States can help” with the ‘transition.’

Feltman said,

“the Obama administration could be helpful in providing support and preparations for Tunisia’s upcoming elections through American nongovernmental organizations that have helped other countries that did not have prior histories of allowing a free and fair process.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley stated that the unity government is,

“trying to be responsive,” and that, “this is a government that is trying hard to respond to the aspirations of its people.”[14]

In other words, American officials are deeply involved in attempting to legitimize the Tunisian “unity government,” in order to hold elections in six months, when the U.S. can ensure that they control the outcome.

 

Thus, the U.S. is interested in holding back the revolution, likely pressuring General Ammar to try to reason with the protesters, as well as support the unity government itself.

 

As US envoy Feltman stated,

“What's going to give any government real credibility... are elections,” and that, “To get to credible elections after having a system that so restricted the role of civil society and political parties... is going to take some time and effort.”

In other words, America is attempting to stem the ‘revolution’ and maintain and manage the ‘evolution’ into a democratic government which they would ultimately control, just as suggested by the CFR Task Force Report.

 

As one Tunisian protester proclaimed,

“Somebody is stealing our revolution.”[15]

Feltman’s acknowledging of the need to build a more effective civil society before the elections provides support for the revelations in the diplomatic cables that the Tunisian government of Ben Ali was severely hampering American efforts to foster Tunisian civil society groups.

 

Thus, I don’t think it is appropriate to see the Tunisian uprising as “engineered in America,” since America was ultimately caught unprepared.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the UN under the George Bush administration, as well as a board member of the “democracy promotion” organization the National Endowment for Democracy (which funded and supported the ‘colour revolutions’ in Eastern Europe and Central Asia), wrote an article in the Financial Times, editorializing that the uprising in Tunisia shows the potential for new media to empower disaffected citizens, as well as demonstrating,

“the rise of a new political class: young people who stand for neither secular tyranny nor Islamist radicalism.”

While heaping rhetorical praise upon a victory for ‘democracy,’ Khalilzad suggested articulating “a new freedom agenda for the region”:

The west should also openly pressure other authoritarian regimes to liberalize, acting as a midwife for democratic reform.

 

In countries in which Islamist movements are better organized than liberal ones, the west should focus on developing moderate civil society groups, parties and institutions rather than calling for snap elections. Most importantly, our distribution of foreign aid should reflect and advance these priorities.

 

Regimes and reformers throughout the region are taking note of events in Tunisia. The US and Europe must act quickly.[16]

So what are these "democracy promotion" organizations?

 

Three prominent ones are,

  • Freedom House

  • the National Democratic Institute

  • the National Endowment for Democracy

One of the previous chairmen of Freedom House was R. James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA.[17]

 

The current chairman is William H. Taft IV, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and former chief legal adviser to the State Department.

 

Member of the Board of Trustees of Freedom House include individuals past or presently associated with:

  • the U.S. Department of State

  • the Council on Foreign Relations

  • Citigroup

  • Warburg Pincus

  • AFL-CIO

  • Morgan Stanley

  • the Brookings Institution

  • Visa

  • USAID

  • the Associated Press [18]

The Chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is Madeleine Albright.

 

Another notable member of the board is James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, and former member of the board of directors of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Population Council.[19]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was founded by Ronald Reagan in 1983 with the aim of “promoting democracy,” registered as a private organization, nearly all its funding comes from the U.S. Congress.

 

One of the founders of the NED, Allen Weinstein, once stated that,

“A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”[20]

Notable members of the board include:

  • Kenneth Duberstein, CEO of the Duberstein Group, and member of the boards of Boeing, Fannie Mae, and the Council on Foreign Relations

  • Francis Fukuyama, author of “The End of History”; William Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, the United Nations, and former Defense Department official

  • Larry A. Liebenow, former Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the board of the Council of the Americas (founded by David Rockefeller, who remains as Honorary Chairman)

  • Ambassador Princeton Lyman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, former Ambassador to Nigeria, former Ambassador to South Africa, former director of USAID

  • Moisés Naím, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former director of the Central Bank of Venezuela, former executive director of the World Bank, and is a member of the boards of Population Action International and the International Crisis Group

  • Vin Weber, on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, and co-chair with Madeleine Albright on the CFR Task Force Report on reform in the Arab world.[21]

One month after Ben Ali’s departure, Tunisians are left with more political freedoms, yet there is still grave concern over the path of change taking place,

“with Tunisia’s old guard still strong and interim authorities often overwhelmed - many said they fear promised changes may be swept aside.”

One opposition group leader in Tunisia has stated that,

“There is no clear political will to break from the past. The government’s decisions have come with delays that have damaged its legitimacy and provoked a crisis of confidence.”

 

Thus, “some fear the revolution will be confiscated, its potential wasted behind a smokescreen of reforms.”[22]

Yet one thing has clearly changed in Tunisia, the development of a feeling and taste for freedom.

 

Once that wondrous inherently human taste for freedom is felt, it is incredibly difficult to suppress, and becomes far less tolerant of any methods aimed at control.

This is both a very hopeful and deeply precarious situation. Change always is. The real question is whether or not this ‘transition’ will bring about true freedom and true democracy, or if it will retain "neoliberal freedom and democracy", which amounts to a kind of democratic despotism, in which democracy becomes simply about voting between rival factions of elites who all serve the same foreign imperial interests.

  • Could Tunisia potentially witness a populist democracy, like those that have spread across Latin America?

  • Or will it succumb to the American brand of democracy?

Time, it seems, will only be able to answer that question.

 

As always, the odds are against the people, but again, as events over the past 30 days have shown the world, the people can always defy the odds.


 

Notes

[1] Embassy Tunis, SUCCESSION IN TUNISIA: FINDING A SUCCESSOR OR FEET FIRST?, Wikileaks Cables, 9 January 2006: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2006/01/06TUNIS55.html

[2] Embassy Tunis, PRESIDENT BEN ALI MEETS WITH A/S WELCH: PROGRESS

ON COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION, REGIONAL CHALLENGES, Wikileaks Cables, 3 March 2008: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2008/03/08TUNIS193.html

[3] Embassy Tunis, TROUBLED TUNISIA: WHAT SHOULD WE DO?, WikiLeaks Cables, 17 July 2009: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html

[4] Embassy Tunis, TROUBLED TUNISIA: WHAT SHOULD WE DO?, WikiLeaks Cables, 17 July 2009: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html

[5] NED, Tunisia, National Endowment for Democracy: http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/tunisia;

FH, New Generation of Advocates: Empowering Civil Society in Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=66&program=83;

NDI, Tunisia, National Democratic Institute: http://www.ndi.org/tunisia

[6] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), page 4

[7] ELAINE GANLEY and BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Tunisia's interim president backs a unity govt, AP, 16 January 2011: http://apnews.myway.com//article/20110115/D9KOQT000.html

[8] Al-Jazeera and agencies, Army on streets amid Tunisia unrest, Al-Jazeera, 15 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011115135844457245.html

[9] Kim Sengupta, Political vacuum filled by chaotic in-fighting, The Independent, 17 January 2011: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/political-vacuum-filled-by-chaotic-infighting-2186293.html

[10] Agencies, Ben Ali's possible successors, Al-Jazeera, 15 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/01/20111151464566226.html

[11] AJ, Tunisia's new government in trouble, Al-Jazeera, 18 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011118194731826312.html

[12] ALM, Tunisian officer: Washington tells dismissed chief of staff to 'take charge', Al-Masry Al-Youm, 16 January 2011: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/tunisian-officer-washington-tells-dismissed-chief-staff-take-charge

[13] AJ, Tunisia cabinet to be reshuffled, Al-Jazeera, 24 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011124163051778391.html

[14] Stephen Kaufman, U.S. Supports Tunisia’s Political Transition, America.gov, 24 January 2011: http://www.america.gov/st/democracyhr-english/2011/January/20110124162333nehpets0.8809168.html?CP.rss=true

[15] Borzou Daragahi, Key diplomat says U.S. approves of Tunisia revolt, Los Angeles Times, 25 January 2011: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/25/world/la-fg-tunisia-envoy-20110126

[16] Zalmay Khalilzad, Democracy in Tunisia is just the start, The Financial Times, 19 January 2011: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/552d3632-2405-11e0-bef0-00144feab49a.html#axzz1C08RDtxu

[17] Press Release, Freedom House Announces New Chairman, James Woolsey, Freedom House, 13 January 2003: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=124

[18] FH, Board of Trustees, Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=10

[19] NDI, Board of Directors, National Dmeocratic Institute: http://www.ndi.org/board_of_directors

[20] William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, 2000, p. 180

[21] NED, Board of Directors, the National Endowment for Democracy: http://www.ned.org/about/board

[22] Deborah Pasmantier and Sonia Bakaric, Freedom and worry a month after Tunisia uprising, Montreal Gazette, 13 February 2011: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/TUNISIA+MONTH+LATER/4274347/story.html