Case of the trigger-happy police state
Libya's plastered all over the news, the Bahrain Grand Prix has been called off, and I stand corrected on my analysis of Mubarak's resistance.
The astounding reality of Arabs taking to the streets is beyond doubt an unimaginable reality coming to life. It's comic to see the defiance of the rulers' faces while the fear in their eyes is evident. You may be waving your finger threateningly, but the image of a glistening forehead (that goes on forever) is worth a thousand words.
The UN is calling the Libyan situation a genocide, and the BBC is playing back-to-back images of Cameron getting in bed with the military in Egypt and Tony Blair's loving embrace of Gaddafi. Go back a few decades, the West was doing nothing different. History, she repeats herself.
As we chatted out the scene over dinner, my housemate had some profound thoughts:
"What? The Libyan government is doing what? Killing civilians? What? With British weapons? damnnnnn...."
"Oh crap... What's that you say about the Bahraini military? Shooting civilians? British weapons again... Shhaaaeeeettttt..."
Rock and a hard place, really.
"Oh well, they'll be coming back soon asking for ammo."
"It's great for the economy, Osbourne says."
Putting my neck out on this one, I'd say that Gaddaffi's done - quietly exploring (or already exercising) his exile options, Bahrain's rulers will buy some time due to their slightly more flexible approach and their relatively affluent citizens having more at stake with an economic shut down, and this movement will continue to proliferate.
Nothing will change in Iran, as broadly speaking, the underlying institutions are democratic even if their transparency is clear as mud. Pakistan's hopes of a revolution are likely to be crushed as the military steps in moments before the tipping point to 'save the day', although one has to really hope .. not again. Please, not again.
Here's a thought...
How will this mood of revolution - this transformation from decades of status quo - likely to impact the West, specifically Western Europe? Nearly every election in the region is churning out a right-wing government. Some of it has to do with the economic climate, and people's need for change, but the rightist campaigns often prey on xenophobia with regard to extremism and the internalisation of its Middle Eastern connection.
It feels like a tricky turnaround is on it's way. Embracing the principles of democracy, and bucked up by Western governments, the next 'democratic' regimes are likely to be slightly more conducive to their democratic peers in the West, especially as they get lent a hand or two for the creation of their institutions. Historically, dictators, by and large, have been pretty great at singing to the West's tune, at the cost of their people, but rest assured the US and the EU will be quick to change course and realign to this new movement.
Is this likely to kickstart a slow but hopeful process of de-radicalisation? Possibly? Are the fighter pilots that escaped seeking asylum in Malta on account of refusal to bomb their people going to get it? Probably. Are citizens of Western Europe watching closely, sympathising with the protesters and celebrating their success? Definitely.