Arab Authoritarian Order Shattered


Robin Wright – United States Institute of Peace

The Arab world’s old authoritarian order is being shattered, whatever happens next. With Egypt accounting for roughly one-quarter of the Arab world’s 300 million people, the transition of political power in Cairo will have widespread effect across the twenty-two nation bloc. From Casablanca to Kuwait, Tripoli to Damascus, Egypt’s transition will affect every other Arab country in some way—small or large, direct or indirect.

In a region made famous for its suicide bombings, the use of civil disobedience to peacefully force Hosni Mubarak from the presidency changes the political dynamics, not only in Egypt.

In the end, Mubarak and his loyalists could no longer isolate or discredit the burgeoning opposition without enormous costs, and potentially not at all. The movement began to take its demonstrations beyond Liberation Square to parliament, state television and the presidential palace. Protests also spread throughout the country. And labor began to strike in sympathy with the opposition. Already crippled economically over the past two weeks, Egypt could not afford to see strikes spread and the country paralyzed. The opposition could not be contained, politically or physically.

Despite the breathless pace of change in both Egypt and Tunisia—all since December 17, a mere eight weeks—the political drama is likely to play out for a very long time. So far, the model for Egypt is more Turkey than Iran. Ironically, Mubarak resigned on February 11—the same day as the Iranian revolution. But Egypt’s uprising has taken a decidedly different form.

Now the hard part begins—organizing elections, amending or rewriting the constitution, developing new political parties, and getting the economy going again. The economy will be a key in ensuring a healthy transition for Egypt.

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2 Responses to “Arab Authoritarian Order Shattered”

  1. Dear Robin, you write very well, but, with all respect, I’d say, you write like a politician. That, is, you say a lot, but without much “real” meaning.

    First of all, I can’t understand how wou can say “..use of civil disobedience to peacefully force Hosni Mubarak from the presidency”, when many people were trained to face the riot police and the Army. In fact, England (where I live) made good business (as with the Egyptian Civil War the UK masterminded after World War I). The UK is one of the main providers of riot gear and riot training. Part of the price to pay for not returning to Egypt what British pirates looted in the past.

    Perhaps, with nearly 4,000 Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, you think that nearly 400 dead in Egypt still qualifies for being described as a “peaceful” event. Not to me.

    The truth is: your country, USA, is getting there; slowly but surely, USA Embassies and other diplomatic delegations, assisted by USA and other sscret services, mainly CIA, are causing the great turmoil they have so much longed for, which will inevitably end up in a big military conflict, involving Israel, to the delight of weapon manufacturers and tradres, the world over.

    USA did not signed a 32 “billion” weapon deal with Saudi Arabia, for this Gulf country to open a “War Museum” and exhibit those beautiful American Death Toys.

    I’d suggest that you do a bit of research into how much USA money went into the popular demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, Yemen, Bahrain, etc.

    Remember, when USA wanted to get rid of their – intil then – friend, the Sha of Persia, Washington “invested” 4 million dollars in Iran to help over a million poor Iranians travel to the capital, Teheran, and spend days in hotels, eating in restaurants, whilst pretending to demonstrate against the Sha. Monies distributed by American and local CIA agents.

    I say “pretending”, because 90% of these demonstrators knew nothing about politics, half of them couldn’t even read or write. All they knew is they’d been given money to travel to the capital and join in the demonstrations.

    If you believe I’m wrong, I’d suggest you try to find a job in Washington in the Foreign Department, work for Hilary Clinton for a year and we speak again afterwards.

    I’m sorry if I sound Harsh, but I’m really desperate, with the world heading towards a big catastrophe and so many people not noticing it.


  2. Satoshi says:

    Dear Ms. Robin Wright,

    So, the departure of authoritarian leaders and their regimes will lead simply or directly to “peace and democracy” of their countries (although you do not say it so clearly)? Well, I am skeptical even though I really hope the advent of peace and democracy to these countries.

    One of the functions of authoritairan leaders and their regimes is to supress possible emergences of various factions and sects of political, ethnic, religious and any other types of conflicts. If this function will be removed, it will highly be likely that harsh conflicts (probablly violent ones) among these factions and sects will begin. Who (i.e. which faction or sect) actually will obtain the substantial part of the leading political power of their country? In brief, who will be in charge of the post-authoritarian era?

    Needless to say, all of these factions and sects want to be in charge. Accordingly, its result might be their conflicts, resulting in permanent chaotic situations of their countries. When a big cat disappears, small mice start fighting each other. Their fights are, in most cases, extremely cruel, including daily terrorism. Look at the post-Taliban Afganistan! (And some part of Taliban is still vividly “working” there!) Look at the post-Sadam Husein Iraq! This is one of the main reasons why the US forces cannot withdraw from these countries.

    People (or peoples) of these countries still have a long way to go to reach the entrance of peace and democracy.

    I hope that you will laugh at my view as mentioned above, saying that my view is just too pessimistic!

    Yours sincerely in peace and respect,