The sweeping wave of protests over West Asia is refreshing to see twenty-two years after the fall of the Berlin wall. The demise of repressive communist regimes in Eastern Europe was not due to the direct intervention of the west, but the overall impact of home grown people’s power movements, which gathered pace as the USSR was weakened by the inherent failures of the Marxist economic model. History does seem to be repeating itself, but what had led to enduring democracies in the Eastern Europe nearly two decades ago may in the present context usher in fundamentalists as an alternative to the corrupt dictatorships that ruled these countries with the overt blessing of the west, in contrast to those countries behind the Iron Curtain. However, one cannot put these changes to a set pattern as the socio-economic context in each of these countries differs significantly.
The situation in Egypt is still volatile. The majority of its population is poor and illiterate. As with the case of such populations in other parts of the world they are drawn towards religion and in this particular case Islam is a source of stability. The chaos that followed Mubarak’s ousting dramatically demonstrated the way in which a power vacuum may dangerously propel countries towards anarchy. In such a situation, it might become easier for prosecuted fanatical organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood to take control. With the billions of dollars of advanced US weaponry in their arsenals thanks to the military aid provided to Mubarak’s regime, this would become a treasure trove for jihadists that are hell bent on destroying Satan and his accomplice Israel; not to mention securing control of the strategic Suez Canal. This of course is a nightmare not only for USA and Israel, but the rest of the word as well and would explain why President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are playing it safe, without letting a disastrous scenario like the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran to unfold that was instrumental in the electoral defeat of then President Carter whose liberal agenda was blamed for “losing” Iran as an ally and the subsequent hostage crisis, which included the botched attempt to free hostages by using the Delta Force.
However, in the case of Iran – the bête noire of West – the green liberal opposition movement once again challenges the conservative regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Unlike in Egypt, the power of conservatives that rule Iran is deeply etched in its social fabric. Hence, it is doubtful whether these protests would gain momentum to amass an uprising similar to the scale of the Islamic revolution that brought the current ruling class to power. Once again, USA’s options are limited. Any vocal support (Secretary Clinton voiced her subtle support) by the West for the opposition would deal a deathblow to the nascent pro-democracy movement and would even unite conservatives against their common enemy. The same would apply to the Libyan protest movement against one-time terror paymaster Quaddafi.
Bahrain, another US ally, is now resorting to military force in order to crush the demonstrations by its citizens. There is a strong likelihood of an Islamist upsurge in that country too, which will be of concern to Obama, as that country plays host to the US Fifth Fleet. So far only Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – both of which are strong US allies as well as autocratic states – are left untouched by the gathering domino effect. Perhaps with time, the same fate would fall on the despicable military Junta of Burma who rules that country in true Orwellian fashion.
One of the greatest lessons of the current pro-democracy protest movements is that people cannot be protelysised in to democracy by outside forces as was done in Iraq and Afghanistan with disastrous consequences, but instead it is the people themselves that should realise its value and stand up for it.