Friday, October 21, 2011

Two optimistic views of the fall of Qaddafi

From Juan Cole:

The last stand at Sirte was very like Jim Jones’s last stand in the jungles of Guyana. Jones was an American religious leader who gradually went mad, demanding more and more sacrifice and obedience from the members of his People’s Temple congregation, which then gradually became a cult. I define a cult as a group wherein the leader makes very high demands for obedience and self-sacrifice, and the values of which diverge from those of mainstream society. When the outside world seemed clearly to be pursuing the People’s Temple into Guyana, with a Congressmen showing up in Jonestown to rescue a handful of adherents who wanted to go home, Jones reacted with fury, first sending a militia to kill the congressman and the defectors, and then instructing his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid. Many were injected with cyanide laced with liquids or shot. Those who would not agree voluntarily to be “translated” to the next world together with their messianic leader would be subjected to the ultimate coercion.
Qaddafi’s stand at Sirte underlined the cultish character of his politics,...
 The final defeat of Qaddafi and Qaddafism is a victory for the Fourth Wave of democratization that began in Tunisia and continued in Egypt. There is now a contiguous bloc of 100,000,000 Arabs in North Africa who have thrown off dictatorship and aspire to parliamentary government (Tunisia’s elections are coming up on Sunday). Those who dismiss this movement because Muslim religious forces will benefit are exhibiting a double standard. Roman Catholicism benefited from Third Wave democracy movements like those in Poland and Brazil, as did Eastern Orthodoxy. Were democracy to break out in Burma, Theravada Buddhism would benefit. So what?
The Arab League, President Obama and NATO have been vindicated in their decision to forestall the massacre of eastern Libyan cities such as Benghazi. The region’s remaining bloodthirsty tyrants, who have not scrupled to massacre non-combatants for exercising their right of peaceable assembly and protest, should take the lesson that mass murder is a one-way ticket for them to the sewage drain of history. As I told the NYT today, ““The real lesson here is that there is a new wave of popular politics in the Arab world… People are not in the mood to put up with semi-genocidal dictators.” 
And at
So if the Libyans themselves hadn’t risen up in the first place, NATO wouldn’t have considered intervening, and Gadhafi would almost certainly still be alive and in charge.

That’s the lesson the Arab world takes away from Gadhafi’s fall, and it’s a valuable one.

Many if not most in the Arab world likely believe it was the Libyans who “got” Gadhafi.

In those pictures he was surrounded by Libyan fighters, not foreign troops. It is precisely the image — if not the exact circumstances — that both the NTC and NATO wanted right from the start, to avoid the Iraq mistake and the baggage that came with that.

Among Arabs those nuances count for a lot. And so those images will undoubtedly breathe new life into the flagging uprisings in Syria and Yemen. They will also give pause to the autocrats who still rule them.

Arab editorials in today's papers openly wondered who would be next in what they now willingly call the Arab Spring, and what might be on the minds of the possible candidates as they watched Gadhafi’s final moments.

It is a very different Arab world than it was when Saddam was caught. This Arab Spring, sparked singlehandedly by a desperate Tunisian young man, is all about people, and therefore legitimate in the eyes of most of the region. The old rules lurk behind the scenes, but they are weakening as the people continue to press for substantive change.

Even in countries where there has been no large scale protest, old regimes have clamoured to introduce change. Saudi Arabia would not have given women the right to vote and run in municipal elections without the Arab revolts. Jordan has had two governments resign in the span of months in the name of introducing reform.

The Arab Spring has been a messy affair, and it will continue to be, and in some countries, spring may never come. But in each of those countries where it has or will, it unfolds differently — as evidenced by those affected so far — and with different speeds and efficacy.

Having world powers on your side certainly seems to help--whether it's moral or military. In future, other revolutions may or may not involve foreign intervention, and we may yet see an example that involves only regional intervention, without the involvement of Western powers.
But the one common, requisite ingredient in all of them has been a willing people. People who have broken the barrier of fear, who refuse to remain silent — even after they might have managed to fell longstanding regimes, as in Egypt's case.
After now watching three strongmen fall in successively higher degrees of humiliation, you can bet the continuing uprisings will have a renewed momentum.

And a more pessimistic view:

Arab Spring a failure so far

All in all, as noted above, a fine candidate for early departure from this life.

But that's as far as it goes. Other than that, Gadhafi's death demonstrates nothing more than the ability of Western militaries to cut down whomever they choose.
There will, no doubt, be attempts to portray his downfall and death as an example of what happens when a nation decides to rise up against tyranny and pursue its own destiny.

Americans, in particular, love that narrative, which is why the phrase "Arab Spring" is still so popular in the mainstream media here.

The fact is, the Arab Spring, if it even existed, has been a sputtering failure so far. It certainly didn't even threaten Gadhafi. He was hunted down by NATO military power, plain and simple.

Had it not been for NATO warplanes, Gadhafi would still be in command, violently persecuting his own people.
Image:  And the women?

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