Saturday, January 29, 2011

Revolts in the Arab World

While I can't say I am at all familiar with the situations in North Africa and the Middle East, I have been following the news quite closely since the fall of the Tunisian government two weeks ago.  This week, with Egypt in revolt and at this pointing looking certain to toss Mubarak out unless the army radically changes course, the news has grown even more interesting.  With the additional recent collapse of the government in Lebanon, protests rising in Yemen, Albania, Jordan and unrest in Libya and Algeria, I imagine that this might be as decisive as the collapse of communism in 1989-1991.  Though at this point the narrative is still waiting to emerge.

The high food prices and economic troubles that spiked these actions aren't likely to be going away this year, and the social atmosphere created by seeing successful actions against corrupt regimes will continue pushing for more actions.  Will these protests spread primarily against American backed dictatorships, or will they spread to nations such as Syria and Iran?  That would give me some optimism.

What new governments will form in these countries is the next main questions.  I am all for removing corrupt dictatorships, but if they are merely replaced with Islamist hard-liners or direct rule by various armies, that is not an improvement.  Sadly, I do not know enough of these societies to begin to guess what might happen.  I am an optimist, but will have to wait and see.  News out of Tunisia does seem optimistic on that front so far, and in Egypt the action does not appear to be under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Yet, again, I do not know enough to venture a guess.

Another item that in most cases seems disconnected from these protests are the various separatist movements in the area.  South Sudan is seceding and Somaliland is effectively separate from Somalia but has yet to receive recognition.  The protests in Yemen are at least partly in support of the secessionist movements of South Yemen.  The maps are already going to be somewhat redrawn, but if there is a tremendous area-wide upset, I imagine the cartographers will have a lot of work to do.  I am often a fan of redrawing maps, and the Middle East is a mess in that regard.

Further into the future, I am trying to imagine how much more this will spread.  I was reading news reports today of China blocking searches of 'Egypt' and there are certainly a lot of corrupt dictatorships in the world.  If this movement spreads further out of the Arab lands, as it has with Albania, it... well, this is just more idle speculation on my part.

Either way, exciting times to be alive.  May it all not go to hell.  If this all turns out like Iran did in '79, I will have to become more pessimistic.

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