Thursday, March 10, 2011

An optimistic view of MENA events

In a conversation with a friend, I was accused of being overly dark and pessimistic in tone in my writings. As a change of pace, I want to highlight a more optimistic view of the events in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA).

As we wait for Saudi Arabia's day of rage, which begin tomorrow, we could look over the valley of political unrest and look to Brazil and Latin America as a model of political transition, as per this report from Al Jazeera:
During Brazil's two decades of military dictatorship, it would have been unthinkable that a female former revolutionary would lead the country in the 21st century.

That transition, from autocracy to democracy, might offer some lessons for rebels across the Arab world, Brazil’s longest serving foreign minister told a forum organised by the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in Doha, Qatar.

"Who would have thought an intellectual, a metal worker and a kind of revolutionary would follow a military dictatorship?" Celso Amorim, the former foreign minister and career diplomat, told a crowd on Thursday, speaking about Brazil’s former and current leaders.

"Whatever happens [rebellions across the Arab world] will create a new political situation in the Middle East. This is for certain," he said.
In a separate article that is well worth reading, Marwan Muasher, former foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Jordan, wrote that the recent unrest caught many observers by surprise (can anyone say "massive intelligence failure"?) and toppled many myths about Arab culture and economics (my comments in italics):
  • Arabs don't go into the street to protest
  • Economic liberalization should proceed political liberalization: Economic liberalization resulted in crony capitalism and a widening gap between rich and poor - a topic that I have written about extensively before.
  • Closed systems are necessary to prevent Islamists from taking power: Remember the Domino Theory in Southeast Asia?
  • Elections equal democracy: We learned that lesson when the Union Jack was taken down around the world after World War II. One man, one vote, once!
  • The international community has no role to play: Not sure if I agree with that. Too much foreign support, or meddling, robs a government of its legitmacy.
Enough optimism. After this rousing chorus of We Shall Overcome, back to your regular programming.

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