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View Full Version : Int'l Issues Interesting 2009 take on political changes in the ME that appear to be coming true


mlyonsd
03-28-2011, 12:58 PM
June 14, 2009
<NYT_KICKER>Op-Ed Columnist</NYT_KICKER>
<NYT_HEADLINE type=" " version="1.0">Winds of Change? </NYT_HEADLINE>

<NYT_BYLINE type=" " version="1.0">By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/thomaslfriedman/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

</NYT_BYLINE><NYT_TEXT>Twenty years ago, I wrote a book about the Middle East, and recently I was thinking of updating it with a new introduction. It was going to be very simple — just one page, indeed just one line: “Nothing has changed.”

It took me two days covering the elections in Beirut to realize that I was dead wrong. No, something is going on in the Middle East today that is very new. Pull up a chair; this is going to be interesting.

What we saw in the Lebanese elections, where the pro-Western March 14 movement won a surprise victory over the pro-Iranian Hezbollah coalition, what we saw in the ferment for change exposed by the election campaign in Iran, and what we saw in the provincial elections in Iraq, where the big pro-Iranian party got trounced, is the product of four historical forces that have come together to crack open this ossified region.

First is the diffusion of technology. The Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones, particularly among the young — 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 — is giving Middle Easterners cheap tools to communicate horizontally, to mobilize politically and to criticize their leaders acerbically, outside of state control. It is also enabling them to monitor vote-rigging by posting observers with cellphone cameras.

I knew something had changed when I sat down for coffee on Hamra Street in Beirut last week with my 80-year-old friend and mentor, Kemal Salibi, one of Lebanon’s greatest historians, and he told me about his Facebook group!

The evening of Lebanon’s election, I went to the Beirut home of Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 coalition, to interview him. In a big living room, he had a gigantic wall-size television broadcasting the results. And alongside the main TV were 16 smaller flat-screen TVs with electronic maps of Lebanon. Hariri’s own election experts were working on laptops and breaking down every vote from every religious community, village by village, and projecting them on the screens.

Second, for real politics to happen you need space. There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. “It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”

When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result. Elections in the Arab world were a joke — literally. They used to tell this story about Syria’s president, Hafez al-Assad. After a Syrian election, an aide came in and told Assad: “Mr. President, you won 99.8 percent of the votes. It means that only two-tenths of one percent of Syrians didn’t vote for you. What more could ask for?”

Assad answered: “Their names!”

Lebanese, by contrast, just waited up all night for their election results — no one knew what they’d be.

Third, the Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through. In the vacuum, the parties most organized to seize power were the Islamists — Hezbollah in Lebanon; pro-Al Qaeda forces among Iraqi Sunnis, and the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Mahdi Army among Iraqi Shiites; the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Hamas in Gaza.

Fortunately, each one of these Islamist groups overplayed their hand by imposing religious lifestyles or by dragging their societies into confrontations the people didn’t want. This alienated and frightened more secular, mainstream Arabs and Muslims and has triggered an “awakening” backlash among moderates from Lebanon to Pakistan to Iran. The Times’s Robert Mackey reported that in Tehran “chants of ‘Death to America’ ” at rallies for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week were answered by chants of “Death to the Taliban — in Kabul and Tehran” at a rally for his opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi.

Finally, along came President Barack Hussein Obama. Arab and Muslim regimes found it very useful to run against George Bush. The Bush team demonized them, and they demonized the Bush team. Autocratic regimes, like Iran’s, drew energy and legitimacy from that confrontation, and it made it very easy for them to discredit anyone associated with America. Mr. Obama’s soft power has defused a lot of that. As result, “pro-American” is not such an insult anymore.

I don’t know how all this shakes out; the forces against change in this region are very powerful — see Iran — and ruthless. But for the first time in a long time, the forces for decency, democracy and pluralism have a little wind at their backs. Good for them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/opinion/14friedman.html?_r=2&ref=opinion&pagewanted=print
<NYT_AUTHOR_ID>

orange
03-28-2011, 01:15 PM
Interesting, but a bit of bollocks thrown in. For example, Solidarity/Glasnost etc. mushroomed across Eastern Europe completely Twitter-free; how did they ever manage? Hell, even the Russian Revolution back in the teens managed to spread across an area bigger and more diverse than the Middle East, and they didn't even have television (barely had radio). The American Revolution managed to spread across a whole hemisphere and they barely had printing presses. And let's not even get in to the Reformation.

And this:


Fortunately, each one of these Islamist groups overplayed their hand by imposing religious lifestyles or by dragging their societies into confrontations the people didn’t want. This alienated and frightened more secular, mainstream Arabs and Muslims and has triggered an “awakening” backlash among moderates from Lebanon to Pakistan to Iran.

Er... these Islamists are BY DEFINITION "imposing religious lifestyles." That's their whole premise. "Overplaying their hand?" :spock: [p.s. there's no reason to believe they're not continuing to advance even now]

And this: "Third, the Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through." Nobody wanted to follow Bush through. He was despised across the area. The best way to make someone hate a medicine is to force it down their throat.

This article is an example of a speaker falling in love with the sound of his voice.

Direckshun
03-28-2011, 01:18 PM
He does make several fascinating points.

I was making the point about Obama's "soft power" during the 2008 election season.

mlyonsd
03-28-2011, 01:23 PM
Interesting, but a bit of bollocks thrown in. For example, Solidarity/Glasnost etc. mushroomed across Eastern Europe completely Twitter-free;

Eastern Europe?

orange
03-28-2011, 01:27 PM
Eastern Europe?

http://www.britannica.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/0000095640-laboec003-004.jpg
http://dastych.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/berlin-wall-1989-young-people-on.jpg?w=400&h=303 http://www.commieblaster.com/images/velvet-revolution/velvet+revolution.jpg
http://www.douglassmith.info/images/large/21.jpg

mlyonsd
03-28-2011, 01:28 PM
http://www.commieblaster.com/images/velvet-revolution/velvet+revolution.jpg

And that has relevance.......?

orange
03-28-2011, 01:35 PM
And that has relevance.......?

It certainly does. Velvet Revolution <- Czech Republic <- Eastern Europe

Amazing, isn't it?

My little photo essay shows Poland - East Germany - Czech Republic - Russia. In chronological order, no less. There are others in between, if you need the education.

mlyonsd
03-28-2011, 01:57 PM
It certainly does. Velvet Revolution <- Czech Republic <- Eastern Europe

Amazing, isn't it?

My little photo essay shows Poland - East Germany - Czech Republic - Russia. In chronological order, no less. There are others in between, if you need the education.

So Egypt, Libya, Syria, movements are direct decendents from Poland?

orange
03-28-2011, 02:06 PM
So Egypt, Libya, Syria, movements are direct decendents from Poland?

Where in the world did you get that? I mentioned a number of past mass uprisings which were accomplished without:

"the diffusion of technology. The Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones, particularly among the young — 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 — is giving Middle Easterners cheap tools to communicate horizontally, to mobilize politically and to criticize their leaders acerbically, outside of state control."

My point is that revolutions don't depend on the tools - they just use whatever tools are available.

I've been thinking about "orange's One-Minute Discourse on Mass Movements."
Maybe I'll post it if I can get organized.

LOCOChief
03-28-2011, 02:19 PM
This article is an example of a speaker falling in love with the sound of his voice.


Hello Pot

Direckshun
03-28-2011, 02:22 PM
I've been thinking about "orange's One-Minute Discourse on Mass Movements."
Maybe I'll post it if I can get organized.

Ha! I want to see that.

orange
03-28-2011, 02:22 PM
Hello Pot

... I just play one on ChiefsPlanet.

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/ny/africana%20tea%20pot%20black%205001.jpg

selected for its timely African/Middle-Eastern style

orange
03-28-2011, 02:53 PM
You say you want a Revolution, well, you know...

... the impulse to throw off chains is universal. It can be as deep as opposing genocide or as shallow as umbrage about being asked to eat your free gourmet meal in a storage closet, but all humans want what they perceive as justice. But, there are certain prerequisites. Let's call them Laws for now.

(1) Chain recognition is required. For revolution to catch fire in a population, you must first have some agreement that they are in fact in chains. This is accomplished through whatever means are available - twitter, tv, radio, pamphlet, soapbox in the park, secret societies, word of mouth - whatever's available. But in addition to spreading the word, you have to have people accept the word, and that's the hardest part. It generally takes some time to develop.

"If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial, doesn't logic demand that you be a part of it?"

(2) The spark. This can be a charismatic leader ala Walesa, a congress or parliament drafting a bill of grievances, or a simple middle-aged woman refusing to go to the back of the bus, or perhaps a fruit-seller setting himself on fire in the street. What particular thing will capture the public imagination is one of the mysteries of life, but that's ShowBiz.

"One man cannot summon the future."
"But one man can change the present."

(3) Go Team. There must be a sense that you've got a chance to win. In this case, the more the merrier. That's why revolutions seem to grow like viruses. That's also why governments tend to team up to squash them.

"A man must also have the power."

http://going-well.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Om-Mantra.jpg

mlyonsd
03-28-2011, 04:09 PM
Where in the world did you get that? I mentioned a number of past mass uprisings which were accomplished without:

"the diffusion of technology. The Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones, particularly among the young — 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 — is giving Middle Easterners cheap tools to communicate horizontally, to mobilize politically and to criticize their leaders acerbically, outside of state control."

My point is that revolutions don't depend on the tools - they just use whatever tools are available.

I've been thinking about "orange's One-Minute Discourse on Mass Movements."
Maybe I'll post it if I can get organized.

Ok, now I got it.

My point is that revolutions don't depend on the tools - they just use whatever tools are available.


After re-reading the article I think you and Friedman are saying the same thing.