Sharper Focus/Wider Lens: Upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa

Sharper Focus/Wider Lens: Upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa


– Good evening. Can everyone hear me okay? I tend to be a little soft spoken. All right. Welcome to the inaugural forum of Sharper Focus, Wider Lens Series, which provides an opportunity
for the MSU community to actually highlight the
expertise of our own faculty, which we believe is really important. So we’re excited to launch this. For those of you that do not know me, my name is Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore. I’m the Dean of the Honors College, and a professor with
affiliation in Political Science in the Global Urban Studies program. And it’s my pleasure to acknowledge our co-sponsors this evening. The Honors College, James Madison College, Muslim Studies, and the
Political Science Department. I’m especially pleased to
acknowledge the conceptual and intellectual leadership
for bringing this series to reality and actually looking at an opportunity to be
responsive to bringing an opportunity to discuss history in the making in the Middle East, and that’s Professor
John Beck, in the back. John, if you want to. We really want to take
a moment to thank him for engaging us all in this discussion. And also the behind the scenes work of Joyce Samuels and some other members of the Honors College to help launch this. One of the things I want to encourage you is to look forward to other forums in the upcoming years
and the years to come. I’m gonna ask you to sit back. Well, actually maybe ask you to sit on the edge of your seats as we begin the dialog about the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa. And talk about context,
consequences and implications. I’m gonna turn to my colleague,
Doctor Mohammed Ayoob, who is a Distinguished Professor
of International Relations affiliated with James Madison College in the Department of Political Science. And he specializes in research on civil and international conflict. – Thank you, Cynthia for that introduction. What I intend to do this evening. Well, I should really get ahold of this. What I intend to do this evening and use the 10 minutes that we have each one of us has at our disposal is to basically lay out
some of the important issues that we need to discuss. I’ll of course, make my
own comments as I go along about these issues but then I’ll leave it to the rest of the panel
to deal with these issues, in greater detail and greater depth. The first thing, when
these upheavals started in Tunisia first, then spread throughout much of North Africa and now into the Arab heartland, the Arab east as well, with Syria and into the Gulf, what struck me most was how, the unanticipated nature
of these upheavals. These were upheavals that should have been anticipated, particularly by the community of scholars
and policy analysts engaged in studying the Middle East. But everyone, including all the pundits, were caught by surprise. And this is an indication of how little the professional commentators
on the Middle East, myself included, know of what is actually taking place in the Middle East, particularly at the popular level. It was not only the Obama Administration that was playing catch
up as events unfolded, experts on the Middle East
were trying to do the same. So there was very little understanding. There was, that what was happening at the level of popular aspirations. There was very little understanding of what was really going on. There was a sort of disparaging, a disparaging attitude towards what was called the Arab Street. The term Arab Street had, in fact, become a derogatory term that analysts in the West particularly used. I have refused to use that term. I always call it the Arab public, or the Arab publics in the plural. But this indicates of how little
we knew what was going on. The events in the Middle
East, and I’m sure my colleagues will expand on these, expand on this in greater detail. Events in the Middle East
have exploded to myths. One the myth of Arab exceptionalism when it came to democratization. People were used, until recently, to refer to the lack of democracy in the Arab world as Islamic exceptionalism. And I used to always correct them by telling them this is not
an Islamic exceptionalism. Two-thirds or more of the
Muslims around the world live under one sort of
democratic system or another, even if some of them
may be far from perfect. It was really an Arab exception, rather than a Muslim exception. And let me remind you, once more that only 20% of Muslims
around the world are Arabs. But this, what’s been happening in the last few months in the Middle East also explodes this myth
of Arab exceptionalism. And second, it also explodes the myth that Islamist movements and parties are the only alternatives to
pro-Western dictatorships. The common people in Arab countries have demonstrated that the political
and economic aspirations were no different than those
of common people elsewhere. That they wanted dignity
and freedom on the one hand, and food and jobs on the other. Very, very secular concerns. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t Islamist movements in the mix of the democratic upsurge, or
the democratic movements that we have seen. But I think it has cut down
the Islamist movements to size. Now we know that, you know,
there was this feeling that they are larger than life size. And if these dictators fall, all hell is going to break loose because Islamist extremists
are going to take over. That’s, that myth has been,
I think, buried forever. The third thing that impressed me about these upheavals was the peaceful nature of the democracy movements. In Tunisia, in Egypt, in Bahrain, even in Yemen where
almost everyone is armed. And initially, in Libya,
until the massive violence unleashed by the Qaddafi regime changed the complexion of the Libyan struggle and turned it into a virtual civil war. This, the peaceful
nature of these movements was startling, because usually the Middle East, is in at least some of the public discourse is equated with violence,
terrorism, so on and so forth. It appeared that the democracy movements had learned the lessons, the lesson that violence breeds counter-violence, and that while the demonstrators could not compete with the regimes in terms of instruments of violence, they could paralyze these regimes by massive civil disobedience. And I wondered whether Gandhi must have been chuckling in heaven while witnessing this
information age rerun of the civil disobedience
and non-cooperation movements that he helped lead India
in the 1920s and 30s. I mean there, these,
many of these movements were almost Gandhian in character. The fourth thing that comes to mind when watching what was
going on in the Middle East is that the Administration, the
United States Administration was slow to throw its support behind the democracy movements
in the Middle East. Because it was concerned
that its strategic interests, that American strategic interests would be compromised since
the United States had for long depended upon
Arab dictators and monarchs to protect these interests. Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Joe Biden, the Vice President, in their public statements continued to show support for Mubarak
until very late in the game. Biden went to the extent of declaring that Mubarak was no dictator. Even when Washington
began to shift its stance, it did so selectively. Democracy is good for Libya,
and now perhaps for Syria, but certainly not for Bahrain. The application of these double standards I’m sure has not gone unnoticed
among the Arab peoples. Fifth, as I watched these events unfold, it occurred to me that the
two most despicable acts of this unfolding drama were one, the use of massive violence
by the Qaddafi regime against the Libyan
people demanding freedom, and two the Saudi led GCC
military intervention in Bahrain. To stiffen the resolve of
the Bahraini ruling house, to confront the democracy
movement by massive force. And not to make any concessions
that may set a precedent for other Gulf monarchies. In a truly Orwellian
move, the Saudi regime supports the removal of Qaddafi, while shoring up the Bahrainian monarchy. And no Western leader has had the courage to point out this contradiction
to the House of Saud. What the Bahraini establishment
and the Saudi friend, and its Saudi friends have achieved by portraying the democracy movement in Bahrain as a Shia-Sunni conflict is to turn it into a
self-fulfilling prophecy. The sectarian divide that was rendered salient in Iraq by American intervention has been exacerbated in
Bahrain by Saudi intervention. And just as in Iraq, it
will end up benefiting Iran, which has had long historical connections not only with Bahrain,
but also with peoples in all the countries of the Arab Gulf. Finally, democracy
movements in the Arab world have raised a major uncomfortable
question for Washington. And one that is bound to be
asked around the Arab world once the dust settles on
the current upheavals. If the United States is
for freedom and democracy in the Arab world, why does it make an exception of Palestine
that continues to suffer from, not only from lack of democracy, but indeed from continued
occupation and colonization? I’ve attempted to raise
some of the salient issues that come to mind when analyzing the current upheavals in the Arab world, in the hope that my colleagues will find answers to these questions. Thank you. – An now we’re gonna have
Doctor Ani Sarkissian who’s an Assistant Professor
in Political Science offer some historical context. – Thank you. How’s the volume? In recent weeks, I’ve read
many analyses comparing what’s going on in North
Africa and the Middle East, (cough) excuse me, to revolutions occurring in 1848, 1968,
1989, and 2000 to 2005. I’m going to focus my brief remarks on comparing the Arab upheavals to the revolutions that
brought down Communist rule in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and later revolts in the
post-Communist republics the so-called Color Revolutions. And to outlining lessons
that the Arab states can perhaps learn from these countries as they engage in regime
transition and democratization. And as I look around the room, I realize many of you do not remember
the 1989 revolutions, and so some of this might
be a history lesson, but. I think it’s an interesting comparison and important to think about. So, one big similarity
in the 1989 revolutions to the Arab ones is the snowball effect. With revolt in one country leading to revolt in another until the
entire regions is affected. Some have even referred to what is occurring in the Arab world as the fourth wave of democratization. While this may eventually
end up being the case, I think it’s too early to
make such a determination, and perhaps even to be able to label the upheavals in North
Africa and the Middle East as revolutions as of yet. The revolutions that took place in Eastern Europe in 1989
accomplished several huge feats, which include sparking
a series of revolutions later throughout the Soviet Bloc undoing the command economy system, dismantling the Soviet
and Communist empire, and delegitimizing the Communist ideology. It’s yet to be seen whether the revolts in the Arab countries will succeed on such a major overhaul of political and economic systems in the Middle East. On the one hand, the mass
nature of the protests, and their quick spread suggests that the people of the region
are ready for a change, and are willing to accept it. On the other hand,
there are some important differences between the
1989 to ’91 revolutions in Eastern Europe and
Eurasia, and the Arab cases. So first I’d like to talk about what we can learn from these revolutions. The first thing to note is
that the most successful transitions from the 1989 revolutions were in places where mass
protests began the transition. So, countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, and Slovenia. These protests were
important to the success of the transition because they signaled the breakdown of the authoritarian regime. They created a large opposition, that was united by its resistance
to authoritarian leaders, and they created a mandate for change that allowed the first
competitive elections to give a large victory
for democratic forces, which was followed by significant economic and political reforms. That is, these were successful revolutions because they made a clean
break with the past. Excluding the military
from political influence, excluding leaders associated
with the prior regime, and initiating major changes
in the economy quickly. Some have also suggested
that previous experience with multi-party democracy
in Eastern Europe, before the imposition of Communism, gave some countries an
advantage in democratization. Which has some differences with the Arab countries. But, that’s a contested claim. But the mass nature of the North African and Middle Eastern
protests and the insistence on deposing the authoritarian leaders, rather than negotiating with them is similar to these prior revolutions and suggests a possible positive outcome. What remains to be seen is what role the military will play in
the subsequent transitions, and how quickly and deeply economic reforms will be embarked upon. The 1989 revolutions teach us that without quick and major economic changes and civilian control over the military democracy will not have a
great likelihood of success. Yet, it’s also important to remember that not all of the countries that emerged out of the downfall of Communism are democratic today. One patterns we’ve observed is that in those countries where former Communists won the first competitive elections it was more likely that
authoritarian rule would continue. This includes countries such as Georgia, Ukraine and the Republics of
Central Asia, among others. These and other new
post-Communist republics embarked upon the process
of democratic transition, but failed to achieve the successes of their Eastern European contemporaries. In some countries this
sparked a new series of revolutions referred to
as The Color Revolutions, from 2000 to 2005, including ones in Serbia in 2000, Ukraine
in 2004, Georgia in 2003, and Kyrgyzstan in 2005. The point to underscore here is that it might be easier to overthrow dictators than to establish democracy. The Color Revolutions
were internally oriented, causing people to question how their own leaders had failed them. These examples show how difficult it can be to develop democracy
once you throw the bums out, and also it point to
important pre-conditions for the success of democracy that we should consider in the
case of the Arab countries. Keeping in mind that
every country is unique, I’d like to discuss some
common characteristics of The Color Revolutions and how they compare to the Arab upheavals. I just have a few that I’d
like to go through quickly. First, underscoring Mohammed’s point, non-violence characterized the strategy of The Color Revolutions in
Georgia, Ukraine, and Serbia, which forced the regimes to refrain from using violence against them. Now, this was not the case in Kyrgyzstan and we saw violence happening there. This was mostly the
case in, as we’ve seen, in Egypt and Tunisia as well. And they have also so far been successful in ousting their leaders and embarking on this transition process. So, what this example suggests to us is that where we see regimes responding to protests with violence we should be less likely to see successful
transitions occurring. Second, the militaries
in the post-Communist countries were weak or did not participate in revolutions and subsequent transitions. In many of the Arab countries,
the militaries are stronger, and do have the potential to play a role. We know from previous
transitions in places like Latin America that this strength can allow these actors to negotiate a stronger position for themselves in the immediate
post-transition government. But, that does not necessarily mean that their strength will
endure in the long term. So, it’s not clear that
having the military play an immediate role
dooms these countries to failure in the long term. Third, The Color Revolutions followed fraudulent elections by
semi-authoritarian leaders. The Arab upheavals did
not follow elections, although they did reflect dissatisfaction with authoritarian leaders
who had achieved power through flawed elections and had hindered any sort of democratic progress. Moreover, in The Color Revolutions there was dissatisfaction with the pace of progress towards market reforms and anger at economic
corruption among elites. The Arab revolts appear to be similar in that they also reflect anger at both political and economic corruption. Though the extent of the reforms demanded in some of these countries seems to exceed those demanded during
The Color Revolutions, and suggests perhaps a more
difficult transition to come. Fourth, organized youth movements played an important role
in The Color Revolutions. We saw that in the current revolts, youth have also played an important role, for instance the April
6th Movement in Egypt. But that they were accompanies by people from all segments of society. This reflects the deepness
of the dissatisfaction within the Arab regimes and the need to reform all sectors of society. Again, pointing to the larger scale of the change that will have to come in the Arab countries. Fifth, The Color Revolutions had some degree of prior
organization by young people, but they also had individuals who led them who had prior
experience in government. For instance, Mikheil
Saakashvili in Georgia had been Justice Minister,
and Viktor Yushchenko had been Ukraine’s Prime Minister before the Orange Revolution there. This allowed elections to proceed quickly, and the political situation to stabilize in a shorter amount of time. This differs greatly
from the Arab revolts, which do not coalesce around a leader or opposition party, and seem to leave no role for the old elites in the regimes that are to be created. This may end up working to the benefit of Arab countries,
though is does leave open the question of who is qualified to participate in the
multi-party elections and lead the country, and how long it will take for politics in these
countries to stabilize. So to summarize, I think that
there are two main lessons we can learn from the
revolutions that occurred in Eastern Europe and Eurasia to help us think about
what lies in the future for the countries in North
Africa and the Middle East. First, overthrowing a dictator doesn’t mean you’ve changed the system. In Ukraine, former
Communists ruled the country until the Orange Revolution
initially deposed them. But subsequent elections
brought back the old guard. In Georgia, Mikheil
Saakashvili’s government has proven to be a disappointment to those who expected
Western style pluralism once the former Communist
Eduard Shevardnadze was deposed by the Rose Revolution. And Kyrgyzstan, which was initially predicted to be the Central Asian republic with the most potential for democracy, which is not that unlike how Egypt is spoken of today, ended up being a huge disappointed as corruption and nepotism took hold, first under Former Communist President Akayev. And as his successor from
the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev, failed to restore free elections and civil liberties. So, these examples show that even self-styled reformist elites may not live up to democratic expectations. Second, political and economic change must occur together and they may result in difficult times initially. Support from neighbors and international actors can help countries
weather the storms caused by these upheavals,
but there is also the potential for reforms to backslide. Moreover, the development
of a middle class is important as the middle class demands rights and the rule of law. Now, I’ve been talking
a lot in negative terms and things that the Arab countries need to fear and be careful
of as they go forward. I’d like to very briefly,
in my final remarks, address the fear of religious involvement in the transition and
consolidation of democracy. One thing I’d like us to remember is that the Catholic Church played an important role in
democratic transitions in Latin America and Eastern Europe, notably in Poland and Lithuania. Liberation theology was important in cementing the social justice message of the church and getting it involved with labor and human rights
movements in these countries. So, there’s no reason for us to believe that Islam cannot play a similar role in the Middle East by helping to draw people’s attention to the fundamental injustices that are
occurring in the region, and using the religion’s
organizational resources to help advance democratic causes. Many people have focused
on the Muslim Brotherhood and the role that they’ll
play in Egypt’s transition. We see that while they took a backseat during the revolution, they appear to have more influence and involvement now, and reports indicate that they are dealing directly with the army to decide the future of the country. As they’re the most
organized of the opposition groups in the country, it makes sense that they would be involved. However, this has people questioning what direction the country would take if they won elections. They backed the recently passed constitutional amendments that create an accelerated election schedule, which some say means that they recognize and seek to exploit their advantage as an already organized movement compared to the secular, liberal, and other forces in the country. But this still remains to be seen. There’s also an update today that opposition movements succeeded in convincing, or changing the, pushing back the election date so that they have more time to organize. But, one thing I like to point to is that there’s evidence to show that Islamic parties have not had much relative success in countries where they compete in fair elections. So, if we take other Muslim
countries as examples, we should perhaps not be so fearful of Islamic parties
participating in elections, as long as they are competitive. That is as long as we can
establish free and fair elections, we should not be fearful of these parties. However, religious, ethnic,
and tribal differences are quite important in other countries, for example, Bahrain,
Yemen, Syria, and Libya. So we should not dismiss the potential for these issues to become more salient as the upheavals continue. These issues were used
by autocratic leaders to derail the progress
of democratic transition in several of the
post-Communist republics. And we should not be surprised to see them used to derail transitions in the Arab countries as well. – Thank you, Ani, and I appreciate Mayoob. Mayoob, Mohammed (laughs) and Ani setting the stage for us and
now I’d like to invite our other panelists to
join the discussion. We’re gonna start with
Doctor Najib Hourani, who is an Assistant
Professor in Anthropology with an affiliation in
Global Urban Studies. And he’s concerned with
post-conflict reconstruction and heritage preservation, and also looks at issues of anthropology
of the Arab world. – Thank you very much. Now it’s my understanding I don’t have to speak directly into this, right? We’re good? Okay. Um. That was, that was a humbling presentation in its clarity and focus. I’m gonna be a little bit more loose in my presentation this evening. Part of the reason why I feel like I have to be a little bit loose is because there’s just
so much going on, right? The challenge of trying to think about such a momentous wave of transformation cascading really across a number of different countries, different social, political, economic contexts, really makes the mind a little bit weak. Um, but I’m happy to do it. I’m happy to think about these things because as Mohammed said,
with his introduction, what’s been going on over the last, uh, couple months, has gone
a long way to overturn conventional wisdom as
brought to the American people by politicians, pundits,
news casters and other experts on the Middle East. It’s confounded conventional
wisdom in so far as the exceptionalism that has been attributed to the Arab world, right? The Arab world consistently understood as that region which lacks
the characteristics or traits that make the
West civilized, right? Those traits that we consider to be the hallmark of our own civilization. We believed for a long
time, we have believed for a long time, are
absent in the Middle East. So, these uprisings have been
motivated by those values that we consider the hallmarks
of our own civilization. Patriotism, secularism,
human freedom, right? A focus on human dignity,
rooted first and foremost in the idea that all human beings have a certain set of economic rights as
well as political rights. If there’s one thing that I would encourage people to
think about going forward is the degree to which, even today, much of the media coverage
that we are getting, much of the analysis that we are getting about the transformations in the region focus on certain pre-approved
theoretical frames, if you will. There is the discussion
of political freedom. They have come to want democracy. As if they hadn’t before wanted democracy, as if democracy was
somehow a foreign term. There’s also the women question. Understanding, well, if you
look at most of the coverage you’ll see that women tend to be excluded from the coverage or presented as helpers, right, they participated in the revolts or they supported the revolts in certain ways, rather than giving them this sort of central role that they’ve played. By and large however, the
question of economic rights, the question of economic grievance and economic motivations
in theses rebellions and uprisings across the region has been left to the side. Especially in the case of Egypt, right? After Mubarak stepped
down, much of the media seemed to accept that
democracy would be coming. It might be a more or less rocky road, but there would be democracy. Leaving to the side the fact that there were continuous protests going on throughout Cairo and all of
the secondary cities of Egypt specifically, specifically
about labor rights. The right to unionize,
the right to organize, the right to strike, the
right for better wages, better working conditions,
all the same things that your grandparents, my grandparents and their parents before them fought for in the United States. But that, that has not been
a part of the media story. Or even many of the more
intelligent analyses have left that kind of
economic dimension to the side. So, that’s something that I
want to bring to the forefront. And I think the best way to do that is to return the Arab world, if it will, to the global community from which it’s so often excluded, is to talk about the history a little bit. In a slightly different
way than Ani has just done. And I want to start by noting the tens of thousands of people that have been protesting in Wisconsin, right. I want to note for you another story, that just in this last week,
that I did not hear about on any of the major network newses. And that was 500,000 people
in the streets of London, just a couple of days ago. Protesting against the austerity measures that the government is putting in place as a result of financial crises, not unlike the financial crises, or stemming from those that
came from the United States. Los Angeles, just a couple of days ago, tens of thousands, right,
protesting in the streets. Ohio just last month. These these uprisings if you
will in the United States have been matched by
uprisings in other countries, not in the Middle East. Greece. Portugal. Iceland. And that poster child of
good free market economics, Ireland which is now back in the doldrums. All of these countries have experienced tremendous popular uprisings of late that we tend not to think of in the same kind of vein, but I think they should be, can be and should be connected. These things we think
of as unique and new, powerful, when we talk about
in the Western context, but they’re not anything
new for the Arab world. This is something to keep in mind. The same policies that have brought you these sudden protests
in the United States, in Europe, and so forth,
have been ongoing policies in the Arab world for the past 30 years. So, this rush to austerity,
to cutting budgets, to repressing labor, to cutting education, health care, et cetera, that is shaking American politics today has been an ongoing
experience in the Arab world in the name of neo-liberalization, in the name of integrating the Arab world into processes of globalization. As these processes have been ongoing so too have the crises,
so too have the crises that we consider to be new here. In Egypt, for example, after many years of neo-liberalization,
of free market reforms, unemployment reaches 45%. GDP does not grow, economic
growth does not take place, job opportunities are not being produced. What is being produced,
as some would argue is the case in the United States today, is an increasing separation between an increasingly small, very wealthy elite, and increasingly large and impoverished population. The disparity in income
and economic opportunity and in wealth in Egypt is tremendous. Second place, Jordan, the exact same thing takes place since the 1990, since the 1980s forward, mid ’80s forward with successive attempts
to marketize everything. Withdraw the state, create
business friendly environments, et cetera, et cetera, with
the exact same results that we were seeing in
Egypt and we see elsewhere. So, in the Arab world, the past 40 years is a history of constant and deepening marketization of everything. That is increasing polarity,
decreasing opportunities, and as necessity increasing repression. You cannot sustain these transformations over 40 years without
increasing repression across the Middle East. So you see even in once liberal, and relatively democratic,
relatively democratic Lebanon, the same kinds of things taking place throughout the 1990s. Labor repression, monitoring of media, silencing of critics,
et cetera, et cetera, all in the name of increasing integration with global capitalism. But to simply credit free market ideology, right the neo-liberalism with destroying Arab economies over the last 30, 40 years, and increasing repression
within the Arab world over the last 30 and 40 years, isn’t really sufficient. What needs to be kept in mind, and I think this gets to
some of the discussions that we’re gonna have
as the evening goes on, is the degree to which
the Western countries, the United States, the European countries, and the institutions that have pushed globalization, marketization. Talking about the World Bank, the IMF, and indeed event he United
Nations in many ways, have relied upon
decidedly illiberal forces to implement liberalization policies. So, in the name of free markets, they have relied upon oligarchs. In the name of increasing freedom, they have relied upon dictators. The classic example of this would be, well, Mubarak for one. Who was very keen upon implementing these free market reforms, and as we know, when he came away, when he stepped down he had 30-40 billion. – [Female] 40 billion. – 40 billion? 40 billion stashed in, not
surprisingly, Western banks. Those who surround the
Jordanian royal family, the same thing. You can actually talk about many of these countries in ways that we used to talk about Central American dictatorships. Indeed in El Salvador they used to talk about the 14 families,
you heard about that? The 14 families that used to control the El Salvadoran economy. There was a similar number for Guatemala, similar number for Nicaragua. Well, in Jordan it’s about 14 families. Maybe 16. In Lebanon it’s less. And in Egypt we can see the same pattern. So, what we have relied on in the name of liberalization,
political liberalization economic has been the opposite. We have relied upon
dictators and oligarchs to put those policies in place,
to maintain those policies, and to engage in the repression required to keep them, keep the people in line. How am I doing on time? – [Cynthia] You’re close. – I’m close? – [Cynthia] Over. – Okay. Well let me, um, I’m sorry. Am I close as in done close? (crowd laughs loudly) I’m done. (crowd and panel laughs loudly) Well. Well, let me just then leave you with one thought to bring it sort
of back to the beginning in which the Arab world was defined by those Western traits that it lacks. Right, lack of freedom, lack of entrepreneurial spirit, lack of whatever, whatever, whatever. And I’d like you to think about that in terms of Eastern Europe, actually. And think about that in terms of the dictatorships of Central America from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s. And the kinds of apparatuses
that were required to keep people in such
instances of inequality down. You know, in my time in Jordan, I made the mistake of
engaging in political conversation in a pizza parlor. The look of terror on my host’s face as I said something
negative about the king in Pizza Hut, right, underscores the degree to which the
mechanisms of control that separate people,
that separate families, that separate tribes and groups into peoples that cannot trust one another I think goes a long way to explaining, or to helping us to understand
the kinds of polities that are now suddenly being overthrown. While those are very
effective means of control, they’re actually, they can
also be very, very brittle. And we’re seeing that brittleness today. And I’m sorry I took too long. Thank you for bearing with me. – Thank you very much, Najib. Now we would like to hear
from Waseem El-Rayes, Doctor Waseem El-Rayes who is an Assistant Professor in James Madison College. His research interests include Islamic political philosophy, as well as modern political thought
in the Muslim world. – Thank you. My comments will be much, much briefer, and it will be. – Sorry, yeah. – That’s fine, it’s okay. But, Najib’s taking a little bit of time. There are two things that I would like to be, in response to some of the things that have been mentioned here. One of the things that Professor Ayoob, for example, raised is the question of the myth of Arab exceptionalism. In fact, this is how I wanted to begin my comments and it’s in response that you have raised in
pre-planning for this panel. Do the democratic movements
in the Middle East explode the myth that Muslim countries are not ready for democracy because there is an inherent tension
between Islam and democracy? My first impression, you know, looking at that question was in the positive. Looking at how events in Tunisia and Egypt has been received on the popular level and also by major media outlets
with the exception of one, you know, gave me. People looking at what’s
happening in a place like Egypt, people demanding peacefully their rights. The men, women, Muslims, Christians, secular, rich and poor, old and young, would stand, you know, coming day after
day demanding their rights. Not, you know, refusing
to be intimidated by Mubarak’s goons, and Bin Ali’s thugs, I think that was such
a powerful impression and people saw in these images, recognized a common humanity. But, giving a second thought,
I thought that perhaps I shouldn’t be too quick
in being that optimistic. And thinking about this myth,
that this myth itself serves a purpose. When, and it’s not. Serves a purpose especially
for the autocratic regimes that rules the Arab countries. If Islam is incompatible with democracy then you cannot trust Muslims and Arabs to rule themselves and therefore, you should not push too
much for human rights and democratization in the region. So, it serves the purpose of a regime, and in order to defeat, you know, I
think defeat of that myth depends on what happens in
Tunisia and Egypt especially. And I think Ani is right in pointing out that we don’t yet know
what is the possibility of. How successful the movement
to democracy will be in Egypt. It depends on what happens
in Tunisia and Egypt. If they are successful in
transitioning to democracy I think that myth will
cease to be effective. There are good signs. I think that, at least,
make me optimistic about the possibility of a good transition. And this is the incredible
political maturity that the young activists,
and also old activists, both male and female,
showed in these movements. It was not, the events, the movement in Egypt and Tunisia was not only directed or focused on the head of the regime. It was it demanded the downfall of the regime. So, when Bin Ali in Tunisia left, that was not enough for the Tunisians. When Mubarak left, that was
not enough for the Egyptians. And they demanded that his Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, or sorry,
his Vice President, Omar Suleiman also to be removed. And there was resistance,
and some people said, you know, let’s give the regime a chance to fix the the country. But there was critical mass
in the street that said no. They were successful,
Omar Suleiman had to go. But they were not satisfied
with a Prime Minister who was appointed by
Mubarak and they demanded, and again debates of people. Enough, Ahmed Shafik is a nice guy. You know, give him a chance. He’s a, and they refused. You know, they understand
that it is about the regime. And it’s still going on
in Egypt and in Tunisia. In Tunisia there is
also incredible success with respect to questions
regarding state security. The Egyptians are not as successful in removing the state
security from the picture. Just to follow what Ani have said, there are still some
signs also that makes me you know, not as optimistic. And this is the fact that the military is still in control and the military, as Professor Ayoob had pointed before, is heavily invested in the regime. And it’s not really
interested in genuine reform. At least the top brass. There are many signs which
actually doesn’t make it, I think, to the news these days
that makes one worried. They try, they have been abusive. They have been implicated in torture after the fall of the regime. So they did not prove themselves to be the protector of the people fully as the people wished them to be. But, the demonstrations, demonstrators in the streets still want
to give the army a chance. They want elections. But they want the elections to be delayed, and I’m glad I did hear that they decided, hoped they would give it enough time. That the elections will be held. Will give opposition parties enough time, especially those who were marginalized during Mubarak’s regime, enough time to mobilize and be able to run a competitive election. An immediate election would benefit. That’s what people expect. Would benefit the the old party, which probably would run with a different name. The governing party. And also some of the, the Muslim Brotherhood. But, what’s interesting
about the Muslim Brotherhood, it doesn’t, at least you know, following some of the events in Egypt,
it’s not interested in running in a competitive election where they will take over all of the seats. There is talk, for example,
that they would run to give some. They run, I don’t know,
30% or 40% of the seat. That’s where they would
run competitive elections. So, there is, you know, I think the Muslim Brotherhood
itself is aware that there are fears, especially from those who are outside about their power and they do not want to give these fears more fire. So the military is still in control. There’s some worrying signs about that. And so when I thought, I agree with very much that Ani have said, and Najib. Especially with respect to
the exceptionalism question. The absence. There is another question, Doctor Ayoob, that you also send that links with this, which is the what does
the absence of Islam as a major driving force
for the anti-regime movement tell us about the
common assumption in the West that the fall of pro-Western autocracies would lead to Islamist movements taking power in the Arab world? I think the absence of Islam, of Islam as a major
driving force is a proof, at the very least, that the failure of Islamist movements to, you know, to be able to mobilize the society as a whole, I don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood
would have been possible, would have been able in
Tunisia, or in Egypt, to appeal to you know, Muslims,
Christians, Secularists. Men, women, and. Even though there are, you
know, like Muslim Brothers has different. It wasn’t, part of it was involved in the, in the demonstrations. So, that I think also is yet another clue about how we could look at the question of the myth of Islam and democracy. The, and. Yeah, I think, I think
that would be, for me, here, I’ll stop here and maybe in question and answer we
can deal with that more. – Thank you very much. And now we’ll hear from
Doctor Yael Aronoff who is the Michael and Elaine
Serling and Friends Chair of Israel Studies in
James Madison College. – Thanks so much. I’m also an Assistant Professor
of International Relations, so I’m a political scientist who comes from kind of that kind of perspective on things as well that
I’ll share with you. So first of all, I just wanted
to kind of welcome you here and it’s just a pleasure to be here. It just such an exciting time. I think we’re all, all of us are rooting like crazy for the democratization demands in all of these countries and hope very much that they’ll be successful, and thriving and healthy democracies. So, it’s a very exciting
time to be discussing this, even though of course,
there are a lot of obstacles remaining that have been brought up. I think I’d like to
talk about three things. One is kind of looking at the conditions that make democratization ripe and that make it more likely to develop into a healthy democracy. And look at the different circumstances in some of these countries and compare them on that basis. And some of the comparisons have already been made in terms
of the role of the military. And perhaps the role of economics in this. Then secondly I’d like to
look in political science and international
relations, we have something called the Democratic Peace Theory. I’m sure a lot of you
are familiar with it. It’s kind of a bipartisan
notion in the United States that democracies don’t fight each other, which is even more reason why we should get really excited
about democratization, other than, of course, the
calls for human rights, and dignity, and freedom that everyone deserves around the world. So I’d like to kind of play out what this may mean in terms of the Democratic Peace Theory in the region. And thirdly, again, it’s coming from an international relations perspective, I’d like to look at the
effects this might have on the balance of power
in the region as a whole, beyond the precise,
looking at the individual circumstances for
democracy in each country. So I’ll try to do all those
things really quickly. In terms of conditions
for democratization, it’s kind of interesting to also look around the region and see on one hand, it’s been this amazing
kind of inspirational domino theory, domino effect that each country gets inspired by demonstrations in another country, and it just seems to be
sweeping across the region. On the other hand, it’s
also kind of interesting to step back for a moment and say okay, are there countries where
this isn’t happening? And why not, right? So, certainly it seems like
a lot of the Gulf countries, that either as Professor Ayoob suggested, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that kind of supported, went in to step in and bring 2,000 troops in to support the Bahrain regime and
are also participating in the, Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates are, in the international no fly
zone and other things in Libya. A lot of those countries in the Gulf don’t seem to be facing many
demonstrations, right? So the question there may be why not, other than Bahrain. Of course, I think a lot of
you that are knowledgeable about the Middle East, and
a lot of you in the audience I know certainly are and
were students here who are experts themselves
almost on the Middle East. But of course, we have the
phenomena of the rentier states in a lot of these Gulf
countries which actually the human development
index is extremely high, they’re doing very well economically, at least for the citizens, which in some of the
countries are actually a minority of the people
living in these countries. But they’re able to not depend, because of the huge oil revenues on which the government’s GNP is dependent they’re able to continue to govern without necessarily relying on the demands of the people because
they’re not really taxed. So one theory goes that is if you’re taxed you’re going to be making more demands upon your government as to how those taxes are going to be distributed and what’s gonna be done with it. And a lot of these countries that have a tremendous amount of oil in the Gulf, they’re able to provide actually for the health care, and education, and all these other
things for the citizenry, so there’s less perhaps a demand, or resentment,
as deep a resentment, perhaps against the government
might be one argument. And the second argument is because a lot of the jobs and a lot of the things are so dependent upon the state, that there’s no kind of independent middle class, or independent body that would even be able
to effectively challenge the regime if they wanted. So, both Professor
El-Rayes and I are teaching Vali Nasr’s Islamic Capitalism in one of our classes this semester, and they’re making kind of a different kind of argument that actually neo-liberalism can foster
this independent middle class. And I think it depends on each country, and it depends, you know, I’m kind of hesitant to
make universal statements about this across the region. But, you do have a lot of countries here in which you don’t see
massive demonstrations, and perhaps because they’re
kind of in a different category, and that’s a good thing
to kind of keep in mind as we assess how far this
will go in the region, and how quickly. And certainly, as many
of you know, Saudi Arabia in the last month offered an extra, I don’t know whether it
was 30 billion dollars or I don’t know to its citizens to kind of in a way perhaps
pay them off, right, so that they won’t demonstrate as much. So that’s certainly one kind of obstacle to democratization, not an
insurmountable obstacle, but one obstacle to democratization in some of the Gulf region states. So you’d ask okay, well
what about Bahrain? Why is Bahrain one of the only countries in which you do have all these protests? So therefore it forces you
to look at other conditions that in combination may
produce demonstrations, and certainly has been, if
you know in Bahrain’s case, you have a minority
Sunni government, right, ruling over a majority Shiite population, and that confluence perhaps exacerbates the resentments and
tensions against that regime in that country, which is maybe unlike the situation in some of
the other Gulf countries. And I think another thing to look at in some of these other countries is again the role of the military, the role of external influence, the role of economics, perhaps. The role of to what extent the government has a history of maybe being able to deal with repressing
demonstrations and so forth. So again, if you look at the
several countries around, as has been noted, the
military in Tunisia and Egypt didn’t really. They kind of allowed to some extent the demonstrations to occur
and the reforms to occur. In other countries. Although, as Professor
El-Rayes correctly points out, they may be so strong that it’s, at one point it may interfere
with real democracy. But, in other countries like, if you look at Syria
right now which has been in the news for the past week, where you have now growing
demonstrations in Syria. On one hand, you can also look
at, like the Bahrain case, you have a confluence of
not only a repressive regime but again a minority
ethnicity ruling a majority. So, you have the Alawites which are about 10% of the Syrian population
ruling a majority, around 75% Sunni, at
least 10% Kurds and other. So that that on one hand
can kind of increase the resentment and the tensions in the country against the regime. But, on the other hand,
in the Syrian case, you would think that we might face even bigger obstacles in Syria in terms of Assad being ousted
because if he loses power, he loses power completely, right? And we could look at Iraq in this case, where you had a Sunni minority ruling over a Shiite majority. No matter how you slice
it, and we could have handled it much better in Iraq, once you even make a decision to go, in terms of not robbing Sunnis
so completely of their power as we did in Iraq. But, no matter how you slice it, if you have real democracy in Iraq, the Sunnis are gonna lose big time. And you have the same
thing happening in Syria. Which the Alawites are
entrenched in the government and entrenched in the military. It’s even gonna be
harder for him to let go, because if there is a democracy in Syria, he’s out, the Alawites are out representing 10% of the population, right? I mean it’s not just sharing power, it’s losing power almost
completely in this sense. On the other hand, he has
so entrenched the military with fellow Alawites in different levels that again, if you look at
the military’s role in Syria, it might be a different situation perhaps than in Egypt and Tunisia and they maybe, we’ll wait and see,
supporting the government to a greater extent, so you have a different situation in Syria. You can also look at Iran. We haven’t really mentioned but, we had demonstrations in Iran. Of course, we had massive
demonstrations in Iran in 2009 as well, and the government repressed those completely and put the opposition leaders under house arrest, some people claimed that
they actually were jailed. So they were repressed. So why were they successful in Iran? Well there’s a combination of reasons, and we’re kind of simplifying everything in our 10 minutes summaries. But, one could say well,
they already had a history, the government, of this
wasn’t new to them, that they weren’t sure how to react and didn’t know what to do. But, they had faced previous
demonstrations in many years, and had already kind
of had a better system for repressing the
demonstrations, unfortunately. Now, it’s a really kind of good question that was brought up. Do you have a greater
sense of demonstrations happening in the most
repressive countries? Or perhaps in the countries that have already opened up a little bit? ‘Cause you do have some opening in Iran in terms of Presidential
elections, of course, even though it’s still
rigged in many ways. You had some opening in Egypt in terms of efforts at reform with the Parliament. Some efforts at reform in Jordan. They were certainly marred
with lots of setbacks, but in those cases, perhaps with Egypt and Jordan, one could
act that it’s actually the openings that created, allowed opposition forces to
organize and increased expectations and possibly
even in Iran as well. Whereas maybe in the
most repressive states, one could arguably say, I don’t know, you could maybe look at Saudi Arabia, maybe look at Syria,
it’s become belatedly, and hasn’t been as strong and it’s kind of interesting to see what will happen. Then of course, you have to
look at the external influences. So, you could arguably say
that the international, now NATO intervention
in Libya, is opening up the space, possibly for
democratization in Libya, where the Saudi and UAE efforts in Bahrain are constraining those choices. And by the way, it didn’t,
it seemed like the US was pretty angry with the Saudis for surprising them, and
Bahrain for surprising them. Hillary had just been in the country. They had just talked with the Saudis. We’re strong allies. Just given 60 billion dollars of military aid to Saudi Arabia and we completely were blindsided by the forces
apparently going into Bahrain. So this certainly not something that Obama was welcoming or urging. Rather he was calling for reform. And he was calling for
reform there and in Yemen in a more slow fashion. That he was calling
for in other countries. And we can talk about
that in a little bit. So, secondly. And also you can look at the different models, attempts at
democratization in the Middle East. You can look at Israel, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey. So, one of the things you can look at as inhibiting democratization might be if there’s no centralized kind
of legitimate use of force, and you have independent militias as you might have arguably kind of, delayed, hampered, weakened
democratization efforts in Lebanon and within the
Palestinian territories. Secondly, if you look
at the democratic peace, I think here again
there’s a lot to celebrate in terms of hopefully
democracies getting established around the Middle East. Certainly the democratic peace, which suggests therefore
you’re going to have even more peace in the region
among fellow democracies. And arguably there are a lot of reasons that could substantiate
this as the publics actually grow to support
certain peace agreements. There’s more behind it,
there’s more support for it, they could be stronger
and more longstanding. Certainly there’s a lot
of opposition figures in Egypt that have suggested they, for instance, would maintain
the peace with Israel, and therefore again this suggests that at a minimum you’re not
gonna see war overnight when you have democratization. And even moreso, that you might establish greater support for peace. You also have had the phenomena that even some opposition Egyptian politicians have claimed, in public, in some of their speeches that unfortunately some of the regimes in the Middle East have kind of tried to distract their own populations from internal grievances
and internal repression to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, even though there are
legitimate concerns there that I myself have spent
my life trying to look at. But, that there has been a
role for regimes to do that. And now, if there is
kind of real democracy and democratization you could arguably say there’s gonna be less of that going on, creating a perhaps, a healthy environment, healthier environment for peace to occur. You do have some politicians in Israel that are, and I’ll wrap this up soon. That are saying the situation is such that you have to pursue
peace even more urgently. So you have, for instance,
the Defense Ministry, Ehud Barak saying Israel’s gonna face a diplomatic tsunami if it doesn’t become more proactive on peace. So in that sense, it can
foster democratization. And very quickly, on the other hand, the process of democratization itself, the international relations
literature suggests doesn’t necessarily foster peace as regimes are vulnerable,
as they have setbacks, as there might be appeals
to greater nationalism, as you could have independent
militias fostering. So, in the democratizing process
you could face challenges. And I think we’ve seen this perhaps, and I agree with Professor Ayoob fully, that certainly when you see freedom going across the region, you want to see freedom for Palestinians as well, and a Palestinian state established, in my mind with a peace
agreement with Israel. But what you see in the
last week from Hamas is that it’s repressed, first of all, demonstrations in support
of democracy in Egypt. And when Abu Mazen has made gestures to come to the Gaza strip and to have a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in order to kind of
reconciliate the friction among them for the past four years, the apparent reaction
has been very cautious on the part of Hamas, that they don’t necessarily want Abu Mazen coming there and perhaps thousands
of people demonstrating for reconciliation, or demonstrating for what may be a loss in power for Hamas. And that possibly, some people argue, may have caused them when there has been, in the last three years, relative, couple years, relative
quiet on the border, relatively speaking, to
really escalate rockets. On Saturday there were 50 rockets going from Gaza strip into Israel, which was a huge increase
over the past couple years. And many people say, that actually they’re trying to escalate conflict
within this environment intentionally to avoid a kind of fair democratization process in
the Palestinian territories. And you have, you could
argue Iran increasing its influence in the region and in Lebanon, you could have some of
these democratic transitions strengthening Hamas, which is maybe why it feels emboldened to
not necessarily right now reconciliate with Fatah. Then you also have Netanyahu in Israel now on the other end being even more cautious, rather than urgently pursuing peace. He’s already a very cautious person. Now even being more cautious. Well, peace agreements might not be worth the paper they’re written on. If you know, some in a
democratization process will rip a 30 year peace
agreement into pieces, that makes me even more cautious about signing a peace agreement,
unfortunately in my mind. So, again, I think the
democratic peace as a whole is really strong for the regional whole, when you have a lot of democracies. But the democratization process itself can be shaky in terms of peace. And I don’t even have time to get into the balance of power in the region. So, if you guys have any questions for that I’d love to engage you in a discussion about that
in the question period. – Thank you so much. We certainly have an engaging panel. We could actually listen to any of them, and at the 50,000 foot level, I’m gonna try to throw out some things that came across. I’d be hard pressed to capture it all. But, some of the things
that really stood out in terms of how, not just
the academic community, but pretty much everybody missed it. No one really had a pulse on what was coming down the pike. And to think about the historical context in terms of what’s the role that the military has and will
play in the different uprisings that come forward? And also the extent to which transitions can be successful. How is that tied to violent versus non-violent response by the regime? As well as the tactic that those that are activists take, so that’s something else we might want to engage. And also, the fact that
much of what we see occurring around the world is tied to key values that we ourselves
all hold to be true. And the fact of that, it
really is a global context. So, we may have focused on one region, but there are global issues that we need to bring into play here. And to think about the political maturity that really was at play
with the activists here. There was a level of
finesse and understanding that is to some degree confounding. You wouldn’t necessarily
expect this much political maturity across all of these
movements that was in play. And to look at the
conditions that really do make us be able to deal
with democratization and to go forward and to understand that there’s a context behind it all. We want to open up the discussion, and have you engage with each other, and engage with our panelists. We are taping this, so we have a microphone that we’re
gonna bring to you, when you have a question, and now, I’m sure the panel is
eager to engage with you. Questions. – This, my question is
for Doctor El-Rayes. It’s in correlation to what you said about the Egyptian military. It’s my understanding that the Egyptian military has a lot of vested interests in the economy of the Egyptian state. Whereas like, some of the officers controlling firms or entire markets even. I recognize that also happened in Pakistan under Musharraf and do you believe that either the military is gonna help promote democracy to
keep the economy going? Or do you think it’s gonna create like another shadow government? Kind of like what we had with
Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. – I think the the fact that the Egyptian military is invested in the economy, you know, as strangely as this may sound, played a role perhaps in preventing it from becoming much more like aggressive in its, in combating. You know, of acting against the demonstrators. Because unlike in Libya for example, as a rentier, as an example of a rentier state, the Egyptian economy depends also on its people and its tax payers. If you declare war on the people and you have massacres,
that’s not very good for the. But, this positive can
turn into a negative if the people don’t hold the military on check. Because they do have a vested
interest in the economy, and they want, probably
they would be happy if some kind of arrangement that will not challenge that interest. They were resistant. They didn’t want to remove Omar Suleiman, the Vice President of Mubarak. But it’s the public pressure that was, forced them to change it. So, you know, one change after another, is there because the people
are aware of the danger. There is also, because
there’s so much coverage now on Egypt in, you know. Whenever there’s abuse by the military, it becomes exposed to the. So, I think. I honestly don’t know the outcome. It’s the activist, the way I see it, seem to be well aware of what’s, of the dangers and they are keeping the pressure on the demonstrators. But there is a history to military, you know military regimes, regimes that, militaries that have
investment in the regimes don’t usually, are extremely
resistant to change. And Professor Ayoob, if you, do you speak. In one of the examples was Turkey, (murmur) Okay, Pakistan. – No, I think, I mean it depends. I mean I think the
military will attempt to, I mean, I’m not very sanguine about Egypt. I’m more sanguine about Tunisia. I think the military is
very heavily invested. It’s sort of a what one can call, under Mubarak, it was a
form of what I like to call Praetorian Corporatism. There was a Praetorian Guard which was also very invested in the economy and controlling large
segments of the economy. So they have that vested interest now. If the military top brass feels that genuine democratization is going to hurt their corporate interests
beyond a certain point, you might have a backlash. In Pakistan this has
happened time and again, you referred to Pakistan. But, if on the other hand,
the democracy movement and the military come to
some sort of a compromise whereby there is political democracy but the civilian leadership doesn’t really attack the economic
interests of the military, then you might have a transition
over a long period of time. In Pakistan it has not really taken place. I mean it’s back and
forth, back and forth. But, one mustn’t forget
that even in Turkey it has taken over 60 years
for the civilian government to be able to impose a certain amount of control over the military, and it’s not full control. So it’s not, it can’t be done overnight. (murmur) – As a follow up on that question. By the way, my compliments to the panel. This is extremely interesting. The institutional actor
that’s not been mentioned is the internal police of Egypt
and other regimes as well. Which probably rivaled the Stasi in the old German Democratic Republic, where it’s extensive penetration
of all sectors of society. The universities, the media,
the press, everything. To the best of my knowledge, at least the information that’s leaked out, they succeeded in destroying
most of their files. Very few of the internal security files have fallen into the
hands of the reformers. What, to what extent do you
think that this very, very important institutional actor, along with the party and the army
that have been mentioned, will continue to play a role? Because they have been the
agents of intimidation, which has sort of kept
the regime in power? That’s for the entire panel. Anybody that wants to answer. – Well, I mean I don’t
have a great deal of knowledge on Egypt in particular. But, I think what you’re
putting your finger on really is what I was mentioning towards the end of my discussion. Which, it has to do with these
mechanisms of repression. The numbers of people that were shown to have been informants for
the Ba’ath in Iraq was huge. And it really is, in many ways, like Stasi in East Germany, SAVAK in Iran before the fall of the Shah. You know, the way that they’re able to penetrate and really atomize the world. There is really a very
good book written on Syria in this regard, Lisa Wedeen
from the University of Chicago wrote about how in this kind of a climate you can produce the most absurd
behaviors and statements out of your population, right? And she starts with
the story of an officer who pronounced that Hafez
al-Assad is so great he holds the sun in his
hands, and you know, just I mean insane, right? And she was able to trace
out the power dynamics that make that possible. Then to talk about the question
of how brittle that becomes. Once the atomization is overcome, once there’s that spark that brings people
together, people who are not necessarily unwilling
to submit to it anymore, but who are not aware
of its power, in ways. Can produce this cascading effect. So, I think one of the things, there was the Google
executive, from Egypt, – [Waseem] Wael. – Wael, and he was on 60 Minutes. And one of the most telling
statements that he made is he said, you know, we were victorious because we didn’t know
anything about politics. In other words, he hadn’t taken a political science class yet. (panel chuckles lightly) No offense to the panelists. (panel laughs) But, you know, from
that position of outside the accepted wisdom, right, they were able to move this forward. And I think one of the
problems that we’ve had getting to Professor Ayoob’s statement, that you know, well we missed this, we didn’t see it coming. Is because we tend not to have the tools to see it coming, at least the policy relevant sciences don’t have the tools. And not to beat up on
political science too much, but they missed the
fall of Iran, the Shah. Fall of the Soviet Union. You know, some relatively big ones, right, because there’s a certain
myoptics that comes along with the way that we think of the world. So, I would say just in closing, for those of you that want to come to the Anthropology Department,
we’re looking for majors. (crowd laughs loudly) – [Yael] Did you guys predict it? I just really quickly,
I’m gonna answer my dad. But, I think it’s gonna
be slower to happen, or appears to be slower
to get rid of that element in Egypt ’cause apparently
the new referendum and the calls to ending
the military being able to, three decades long or so emergency rule, where the military can
arbitrarily arrest you. With no trial, or something. Apparently the changes
that are being talked about are limited to that, but not necessarily the police forces, so that
seems to be lagging behind. And of course, in Iran,
the Revolutionary Guard is so entrenched the head
of, one of the Commanders of the Revolutionary Guard
during the demonstrations called the opposition
leaders dead corpses. So, certainly that’s a
huge additional obstacle that I think eventually will over become but may even lag behind the other things. And just quickly in defense of (murmur), we do a miserable job of prediction and a greater job of explanation. But, it might not be because we stupidly try to come up with
these universal theories, which I think is too ambitious. But, because a lot of these
things are so contingent that perhaps even anthropologists
sometimes miss them, as well as political scientists. (laughs) (crowd laughs loudly) – Let me just. – And my dad is both, so I
don’t know about you guys. – Let me just add to
that that I don’t think the military in Egypt
was particularly upset by the Secret Service
being cut down to size. Because there was an, there
is usually an inherent rivalry between the military and the paramilitary, as in Iran with the Revolutionary Guard, or
with the Secret Services who do the regime’s dirty work. And usually, rulers like Mubarak use the Secret Services against
the military itself. On in order to balance
it, and two to keep track of what’s going on, who thinks. So they might now, now that
they can get rid of this, the old Secret Service might try to you know, get all those
powers in their own hands. – [Cynthia] There are some
questions on this side. – I would like first to thank you for this insightful presentation. Actually I have two questions, but before the questions just a comment. I mean, if we go back through history, I mean history has shown us that revolutions are not an easy process. For example, I’ll start
by the French Revolution where getting rid of Louis
XVI wasn’t an easy process. And even after the revolution, they had Bonaparte as a dictator later on. The same thing that happened
with Germany also in 1848, when they revolted against the conditions, and then they had Bismarck
as a dictator later on, after 20 years. So, in the case of Tunisia,
I would like to ask you do you think it’s necessary to get rid of the old ruling party of Bin Ali? Because as far as I have been following in the couple of days,
this party is not finished. They are just trying to be
formed in a different way now. They are trying to be, you know, trying to wear new costumes
under a different flag. But they are the same people. And the second thing, do you think that these revolutions they will augment, I mean they will intensify
Israel’s fear from the Arabs? Because now this change in regimes they will, I mean, change even the people’s way of thinking. Some of the regimes they
were dealing with Israel secretly like the case in Tunisia. So, how do you see them, the future of Arabs’ relationship to Israel? Thank you. – Yeah, I mean, with your
latter question first. I mean, I’m also an optimistic person, but I think generally,
and I’ve been following the different news outlets
in Israel every day closely, and I think there’s
optimistic cautiousness. So, I think as a whole,
most Israelis are rooting for democratization because, you know, they’re supportive of
freedom in these countries. There are many, as I’ve been saying, that think that eventually
this will solidify peace and mobilize, eventually,
support for peace. But, again, there is at
least in the interim, a lot of squeamishness and caution, and even worst case scenario preparation. So even Ehud Barak who says, well, you have to have a diplomatic front is saying now we have to beef
up the military even more, ’cause our whole strategic posture has been based on a 30
year peace with Egypt, and even if there’s a 10% chance, or 20% chance, or 30% chance
that that’s going to fall through as democratization happens, that completely changes the scenario for military planning,
military allocation, to prepare for one of the big, you know, a scenario, God forbid,
where you’d be going to war with two extremely strong militaries. So, in that sense, I think it will alter strategic planning and military planning and military allocations. But I think as a whole,
people are optimistic. And one could argue in certainly a lot of the North African
countries that have had pretty decent relationships with Israel, as Jordan did for years
before the peace treaty. And as a lot of the Gulf states have had, as the Wikileaks show, some
of you have been following it this semester, a lot of the Gulf states, Tzipi Livni was visiting them. They had increasing relationships with Israel all because
of the common interest of balancing Iran which I still think is very much alive and
which is why you see the Arab world not acting monolithically, but actually various countries still very interested in
balancing the possibility of increased relative power on
the part of Iran in a sense. So in that sense, I think
you’re gonna maintain the common interest in balancing Iran that has occurred and you know, it may even increase,
eventually, support for peace amongst the populace. But, certainly there’s a lot of caution and it’s not just caution. It’s gonna alter completely
military strategic thinking and military training and allocations. And we have war planning for China. So Israel now is certainly gonna have war planning for
Egypt, unfortunately. – I think it’s, the
situation’s much more complex. It’s not an either or thing. At one level. I mean, I don’t think
the Egyptian military is going to go to war with Israel. – [Yael] I don’t either. – For yeah, I think, well, for the reasons of balance of power, for the reasons that the Egyptian military is so dependent on the United States for
handouts, for largess. And you know, and the fact
that the American policy sees to it that the arms given to Israel are always a generation or so ahead of those given to any of its Arab rivals. And a whole host of other things. The other thing is that
many of these regimes will be too preoccupied with domestic issues to change radically their
foreign policy course. So they will try to keep things quiet on the foreign policy front. But that doesn’t mean that the popular feeling, which has
always been in the Arab world, much more anti-Israeli than the regime, you know, the regime postures despite regime rhetoric has been. I think that, at the
popular level at some point, has to, will get reflected in democratically elected governments. In fact, that has happened in Turkey. Which is not an Arab
country, but there has been. The Turkish public opinion has always been much more anti-Israeli. Not always, but in the
last two or three decades, than the government,
including the AK PARTi Government’s postures towards Israel. So that’s, at that level, I think, you will have much more of
an anti-Israeli rhetoric, pressure from the, from the you know, the public opinion and so on and so forth. So it’s going to be
very much more complex. I think, and that’s on the
Iran issue, just very briefly. If you follow the polls in the Arab world. The latest, the 2010 poll by
the University of Maryland and the Zogby International, they’ve been doing this every year
in six Arab countries, all with regimes allied
to the United States. Two of them in the Gulf. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The perception of Iran amongst the public is much more benign than in the regime. The perception in, it’s basically, I think if you look at
the overall figures, that people look, when
they’re asked questions like which are the countries
that you see the threat, the two countries that you
see threats to your country? Israel and the United
States ranked the highest. And I, and Iran has like a 7-8% response which says yes, Iran is a threat. And if you look at the
popularity of leaders in the Arab world in the same polls, the two that contend for the top position are Edrogan of Turkey
and Ahmadinejad of Iran. So that also gives the
lie to two other myths. That there is a significant
Arab-Persian divide, or that there’s a significant
Sunni-Shia divide. Because there, you know,
I mean after all Iran sort of, you know, crosses,
is able to cross that divide. – I’ll just add. You know, I agree, I agree
with this, Professor. There is this tendency in
the Arab autocratic regime to employ foreign service in the
interest of governing elite. You know, originally, you
employ foreign service in the service of the national interest. But in Arab regimes, foreign service is a way to support their
oppressive structure. As long as they can maintain stability. That was always the one
issue that you constantly hear in the media before, with respect to the health or sickness
of a regime like Egypt, is their ability to be
stable, to maintain a good relationship with Israel. So, it even gave, the
secret talk is I think, we know some of the
secret relationship is, and you know, as long as we can satisfy a national, the interest
of foreign powers, we will be safe, no one will demand for democratic change. That’s the thinking. So it can, it was used somehow, also as an instrument of
oppression of the people. And the people are aware of that, I think, you know, considering the polls, see that. And I think they don’t like it. So movement to democracy,
a movement to democracy will have to change this. Foreign policy has to respond
to public opinion also. You cannot just pursue policy despite what your people are saying. And one more point. There used to be a time
when the Palestinian Issue was used to, as a foreign policy, was used to distract the people
from domestic troubles. This has changed from, you know, like, especially in the 1990 and 2001. In Egypt the first people to be blamed if there’s a, internal conflict, terrorism attack, is the Palestinians. And in fact, they did accuse. There was no evidence. Accused a Palestinian group of targeting a church. No evidence for that. But, it’s the fear of, you know, we need to be tough with the Palestinians, we need to support the
siege of Gaza with Israel, otherwise the Palestinians
are going to be like. The Palestinians are a threat
to our national security. So, a movement to democracy, to openness, I think that will change the dynamic of the relationship. – We’d like to take one more question. Joyce gets to pick who. – [Joyce] Oh, I do, okay. You’re closest. – It helps that I know Joyce. I have two questions. I’m not sure if you’ll
be able to answer them, especially the second one, ’cause I’m going to ask
you to predict something. My first question is Wael Ghonim is a very intriguing, probably
the most intriguing single individual out of
this whole thing because he was a rich man, basically,
a very economically secure man who chose to risk a lot to
be a part of this revolution. So, how do you explain him? Because I think he’s very intriguing because it shows that there is a maturity over these movements possibly. Because you can explain the poor people, ’cause they have nothing. But, this guy has a lot and he’s choosing to do this because it’s, to him, he sees it as just, he sees it as right. Then my second question is, I read a book, or read about a book, I
haven’t read the book, about the 1950s or something, the CIA coup to rid the Iranian democratically
elected Prime Minister, and how this inspired a lot
of hatred in the Muslim world of the United States
and this sort of thing. And I, my question is basically, is for 100 years now, not
just the United States, but countries have been trying
to control other countries and it never works. It always ends up in
violence and oppression and suffering and this sort of thing. Do you think that we’re gonna learn now, finally, from all this, the United States maybe should stop trying
to control Central America, stop trying to control other
nations around the world? Will we stop that? And that’s it. – Anybody wanna take that question? – Well, let, sorry. – Then you. I’ll just very quickly give a response and then to give time for other responses. I think certainly there’s room for evaluating US foreign
policies and to what extent we’ve impeded democratization
in the past in Egypt, and to what extent we could
have done a better job. However, I would I guess,
put out a question in return, is if, can you ever
eliminate both internal and external influences, right? So, it’s not only the US
that is influencing things. It’s Iran that’s trying
to expand its influence. It’s Saudi Arabia that has
its sphere of influence. It’s Iran that’s also
meddling in countries, in Lebanon and elsewhere. Previously it’s also
been Russia that has been an actor in the region. So arguably one could say that even if you argue that America
could do a better job, and it can, and we should
consider how to improve our foreign policy, that
if the US completely stepped back, who would
fill the power vacuum? And you’re always gonna
have a, I would argue, a competition over spheres of influence. You won’t be able to escape it. And some of the other actors that are trying to increase their influence may not have a more benevolent
influence on the region either. But, that would just be my quick response. – Yeah, if you look at
the Marxist revolutions, there used to be a saying
that they’re always led by people who are traitors to their class. It’s not the peasants and
the disorganized laborer that take the lead, it’s the middle class. So, in some ways, the
Wael Ghonim phenomenon could be an extension of that. Although the revolution, if
you want to call it that, in Egypt was still very much
a middle class phenomenon. So he also belonged to the class. It wasn’t a, it wasn’t a
Bolshevik or a Maoist revolution. So it really came, the
leadership came from that class, and it saw its genuine
interests being harmed by the regime by crony capitalism and so on and so forth. So that’s one. Yes, Mosaddeq, I’m glad you brought up the 1953 CIA coup which
overthrew Mosaddeq. Some people have argued that 1979, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was a delayed reaction to 1953, to the overthrow of Mosaddeq, and therefore you see that,
the anti-American edge. The Shah portrayed as the American Shah. That was one of the major slogans during the revolution was
down with American Shah. So there are consequences that, you know, there are delayed returns for what you do in certain parts of the world. – [Najib] Do you want to? – [Ani] Um, just quickly responding to the issue of foreign intervention. While in the past some
of our interventions may not have been things that we may be proud of, I think that in the current case, there is a lot that we can do, and that other governments can do in terms of helping develop civil society, helping bring people who have experience with building party systems, building economies to the region in order to share their experiences. I know that, I’ve been reading in Egypt and Tunisia you have people who were involved in Central America and other, in these movements in other, in other revolutions
coming in to offer advice. I think advice is
something that can be used in these countries to help
further their transitions. And that’s perhaps a kind
of foreign intervention that we shouldn’t be immediately dismissive of. – I have a slightly different take. When we talk in terms of states, we talk in terms of countries, we talk in terms of their
spheres of influence, their national interests,
we have a very sort of, realist understanding
of how the world works. But one of the things
that really becomes clear when you’re talking about
the post-Colonial world, and talking about it
from a much lower level, a lower scale if you will,
is the degree to which the countryness of post-Colonial countries has never been respected. The countries of the Middle East were born of colonialism. Their borders were written for them by men like Churchill. Their leaders have been chosen for them and those leaders that have come up that we haven’t liked so much
have met unfortunate ends. That lesson has been learned by the elites of these countries. Each one of them, you know, if you take the case of Lebanon for example. Everybody says, Lebanon, oh, Hezbollah is a state within a state,
isn’t that horrible? Well, no, Hezbollah is playing the Lebanese political system the way the Lebanese
political system was set up. Such that each oligarchic/sectarian
entity, the Maronites, the Maronites, the Sunnis,
the Catholics, the Druze have their own strongman. That strongman is supported by
one or more external powers. These countries are shot through with political and economic networks. Not state to state relations, as such. And that’s one of the things that, you know, these Wikileaks releases are starting to show in many ways, and I wish they’d hurry the hell up and get us some more documents out there. But we’re seeing the
degree to which you have, in the Middle East, I
think, the development of really a regional oligarchy, right. If you look at the
leadership from Lebanon, for example, and look at
what they’re investing in. Who they’re investing with. They’re investing, say
Hariri, the Hariri family. A Saudi-Lebanese billionaire businessman who becomes Prime Minister. Where’s the divide between the
state and the economy there? I don’t know. He’s investing in projects
in Egypt with the generals. To develop the shopping malls that the generals protected during the uprising when they should have been
protecting the National Museum. But they put the military out
to protect the shopping malls. Did you guys notice that? He’s investing with the
Jordanian royal family in property developments all over Jordan. You look at the Gulf
elites, the royal families, who are also the Defense
Minister, the Interior Minister, the, et cetera, et cetera,
they’re investing in investment funds with Israelis. With the Israeli oligarchs who are increasingly tearing Israel apart. So, you see a consolidation
across national lines that has a great deal to do with what can and cannot
happen in the Middle East. And those need to be paid attention to, not least because of the
power that they have, but that the people of the region are deeply cognizant of it. One of the most amazing
experiences I’ve had in Lebanon was just
riding with a cab driver and he can tell you
who owns every building in the shopping district of Verdun. Which family owns this,
which family owns this, which family owns this,
which family owns this. The World Bank guys that were analyzing the Lebanese real estate market, they had no idea, right? They were very excited to have me show up, because they found somebody who could explain to them what’s going
on in the real estate market. But, I couldn’t explain
to them anything more than the average Lebanese
had in his own head. So these are very important political markers and
political connections that cut across, cut across boundaries and
have very powerful influences over what is possible
and what is not possible in terms of the geopolitics
of the Middle East, in fact. So, we need to be thinking about it not just in terms of these
sort of realist assumptions, but we need to be looking at
in more nuanced ways, I think, at the deep interconnections that have linked different regimes,
different power structures, and made for some very,
very strange bedfellows in the course of history. I think there you will find some not, well, some very
interesting explanations. I’ll just leave you with that. (murmurs) – Okay. Well, the questions are very intriguing. When I looked around the room I saw many more hands than we would have the opportunity to field. One of the things that I want to do is make sure we create space that you can still talk with the
panelists individually, and talk amongst yourselves. So, I would ask at this
time if we would just take a moment and thank the panel for just their incredible insight and. (audience applauds loudly) I’m gonna ask you not to leave, but rather to engage in
informal conversations and to encourage you to keep the conversations going beyond today. Thank you very much.

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