Mohamed Bouazizi

Mohamed Bouazizi

    For a long time prior to the events in Tunisia the United States had been advising the countries in North Africa and the Middle-East that even though we were allied with many of them that concessions should be made in recognition of civil rights and representative government. The dictatorships paid small heed.

The United States, hedging its bets, spent fifty million dollars to bring activists to Estonia for a boot camp in using the internet as a means to organize and communicate.

Prior to that in 2002 a comprehensive study by Arab Scholars and the United Nations Development Program called The Arab Human Development Report stated that the region was in decline. Notwithstanding the regions oil wealth and strategic trading location unemployment was double the Global average. Also unemployment was even higher for young people and women. A powder keg if there ever was one.
The number of Arabs living in slums without adequate water, electricity or sanitation was increasing. A small ruling class grew wealthier and more distant from the common people. Corruption was rampant. Yet despite warnings from the U.S the U.N. and others the powers in control tightened their grip on these countries and increased their repressive policies.
Arab women’s political and economic participation was the lowest in the world. (Hillary never forgets to mention the condition of woman because I suspect she sees them as her chief political base in the U.S.) However it was the disenfranchised young both men and woman seeing little hope in the future that led the revolutions across North Africa and into Syria. (Yemen seems to be a Shiite coup rather than part of the Arab Spring)

In Tunisia, Mohamed_Bouazizi, an underground economy, fruit vender protested a confiscatory license fee that went into the coffers of the corrupt Ben Ali family by immolating himself in front of local government offices in Tunisia. This event was broadcast throughout the Arab world and further protests occurred with the help of the communication and organizing aspects of social media.
Ben Ali a dictator was forced to abdicate and flee with his extended family to Saudi Arabia and the protests spread to Egypt and Libya. Kaddafi was killed by the protesters and Mubarak was forced to resign and later tried for civil rights crimes against the protesters in Egypt. He was mostly exonerated.

In Tunisia a moderate Islamic government now rules and anarchy reigns in Libya. The Army rules in Egypt and in Syria a civil war continues complicated by the rise of ISIS a successor organization to Al Qaeda, better organized and bent on establishing an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle-East by means of terrorism. It would rule ascribing an ultra conservative interpretation of the Koran as authority.
Hilary believes that history will show that the United States was on the side of human rights, freedom, free markets and economic empowerment during these turbulent times which continue. Little is said of the U.S support or non support of the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt.
However there were many communications’ for Mubarak to grant reforms and provide for a peaceful transition process. He never acceded to the suggestions until it was too late. In Libya the U.S and its European allies provided air support to the insurgents.

Democracy has not flowered in any of these areas and much like Iraq since we removed an unstable dictator, uncertainty and instability has ruled the day. Iran seems to have gained politically from the instability and it is a conservative Islamic state condemned for supporting terrorist activities.
The Arab Spring was a seismic event that probably would have happened no matter what the United States did except in Libya were western airpower helped the insurgents succeed. However it was too much to expect that these countries would somehow morph into full blown western style democracies.
She does not speak of the turmoil in Libya and the death of our ambassador there. That discussion is reserved for as later chapter. She doesn’t speak of what is likely to happen in terms of an Arab Spring in regard to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States or even Iran.

The Arab spring seems to be a sword that cuts both ways in terms of freedom, free markets and economic empowerment in these states culturally different to the western democracies.