While we here in America have been busy watching well-paid union members rampaging across the Midwest, people who are really, truly oppressed are being murdered by dictators all across the Arab world. Over night Libyan Dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi ordered his security forces to open fire on his own citizens who are protesting for democratic reforms.
Gadhafi has holed up in the small nation’s capitol, Tripoli, and recently told the world that he would go down as a “martyr” and would fight until his last drop of blood. Of course, his being a martyr is somewhat amusing. At least by someone, martyrs are loved well enough to have become designated one! No one loves this murderous madman.
Reports have come in that opposition forces — whatever that may really mean, no one is sure — have seized control of the coastal city of Misurata. There pre-Gadhafi Libyan flags were broken out and being flown by protesters. This would be the first major city of which Gadhafi’s forces lost control.
The protests have also come to Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli and the dictator replied by ordering his forces to begin indiscriminately killing protesters.
Protests like this are surging throughout the Arab areas of the Mid East and northern part of Africa. From tiny Bahrain, to Yemen, Libya, Egypt, the streets have been erupting in protests with varying levels of murderous response from the ruling classes.
One thing we should not do, however, is conflate all these various protests as being over the same “democratic ideas,” or even classify them as somehow the same. We should be cautioned that each of these states are different, have different motivations and different political situations not to mention different histories. We just cannot assume they are all the same.
Anne Applebaum recently wrote a great little piece cautioning us not to imagine that these protests are all of a piece and likened the situation in the Arab Mid East to the various — and variously successful — series of revolutions that occurred in Europe in the late 1840s.
I think Applebaum got this right. We cannot assume that any of these protests are going to result in democratic reforms. In fact, we cannot even be sure what these protests are actually about save for the fact that the mass of the people are sick and tired of the poor conditions they have for generations been suffering under.
Maybe some of these protests will result in positive change. Some won’t result in any immediate change at all. Some may result in change over the next decade. Some change may lead to worse situations as radical Islamicists begin to take control.
The fact is, we just don’t know. One thing is sure, there has not in any of these countries been a true democratic political movement behind these protests and that means that there is no democratic political structure ready to take command of the situation in any of these countries. To assume these protests must result in democratic reforms is not axiomatic.
However, in light of Applebaum’s likening of the current air in the Middle East with the reforms that eventually came out of the 1848 revolutions, let us have guarded optimism for the future.