Friday, January 28, 2011

Change Arrives in Middle East

About a week back, while we were following the events in Tunisia, I pondered whether this will be the 'Domino' moment. A week on, with protests spreading to Algeria, Yemen and finally Egypt, it indeed seems so. In fact, Egypt seems to be on the brink and Hosni Mubarak, the dictator of Egypt and the bulwark against freedom and democracy in the Middle East, seems poised to go. Finally.

Mubarak indeed is a survivor and it is still too early to write him off. Joe Biden had to eat his liberal credentials only a few hours back to deny that Hosni Mubarak is a dictator. No one pushed him on the point almost out of sympathy: American administrations seems to be completely clueless on what to do.

They are currently opting for a holding strategy. They let Ben Ali run from Tunisia and held the country through a proxy, expecting the crowd power to subside. That did not work. They are on similar paths in Egypt, trying to ditch Mubarak and getting behind the Army or another proxy administrator. El Bardei, the erstwhile Head of IAEA, has flown in, hopefully as a stand-by leader should such a need arise. However, this may not work as well.

Besides, the holding strategy, there is some half-hearted claim to own the revolutions themselves. The usual colour labeling has not started yet. Indeed, the Western media's reluctance to have anything to do with these protests is understandable. They have not shown their usual scorn, reserved particularly for Iran, even after Internet was banned out of Egypt. Instead, some claimed this to be the win of George Bush's democracy export strategy.

However, on ground, it looks very much the opposite, and a start of a roll-back of American influence in the region. As the world's grandees conferred in the Swiss resort of Davos, the glo-colonization is on the way back. This may actually be the start of a new era, that of a globalization of freedom, of the real kind, not just the advertised variety.

I am fully aware that my optimism may be premature, and Mubarak may finally convince the Americans that if he goes, it will lead to the eventual defeat of Israel and dominance of Middle East by Syrians, and by extension, Iranians. But it will still be foolish to stand by him, because he will have to go some day soon. The process has started, and it would happen: The American administration has to make up its mind whether it is ready to fight history or play on its side. In a way, Bush is remembered: Either you are on the side of freedom, or against it.

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