Friday, 9 April 2010

Love of the Land: The son also rises, for Arab misfortune

The son also rises, for Arab misfortune

Michael Young
Daily Star (Beirut)
08 April '10

Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star. Another excellent piece on who are the people in your neighborhood.

In his book “What’s Left,” the British author Nick Cohen quotes a onetime Foreign Office official as saying, “All isms are wasms.” That amusing phrase is an apt summation of Arab nationalism, as regimes throughout the Middle East claiming some sort of fealty to nationalist ideology find themselves at different levels of political breakdown.

The most flagrant sign of the decline of Arab nationalist regimes is their transformation into hereditary republics. Recently, Hosni Mubarak returned from an operation in Germany to face questions about his future. What ailed him remains unknown, but it is no secret that the 81-year-old Egyptian president has long sought to prepare the way for his son, Gamal, to succeed him.

In this, Mubarak is little different than the late Hafez Assad, whose son Bashar followed him as president of Syria. Had Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq, he would almost certainly have handed over to one of his psychopathic sons. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, hopes one day to see his son Ahmad in office. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi appears to have similar aspirations for one of his boys, perhaps Seif al-Islam or the younger Moatassem. And in Tunisia, President Zein al-Abedin bin Ali is rumored to want his son in law, Sakher al-Materi, to one day lead the country.

Forgotten in these family plots is that, in several countries, nationalist regimes once drew their legitimacy from overthrowing monarchical orders perceived as corrupt or in the pocket of foreign powers. Inherent in the Arab nationalism of the latter years of colonial rule and the first decades of independence was a conviction that the ideology was a byword for reform. Baathism in Syria and Iraq introduced purportedly egalitarian socialist principles, as did Nasserism in Egypt. Habib Bourghuiba gave Tunisian women rights while also introducing improvements in education and more.

Yet that did not prevent all Arab regimes from consolidating autocratic rule, usually in the guise of family-led kleptocracies. Whereas specific nationalist leaders may have enjoyed legitimacy upon taking office, all came later on to rely substantially on violence to maintain order. This was the case in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia after Bin Ali, and the list goes on. Arab nationalists, previously thought of as representing the vanguard of a new Middle East, instead merely reproduced the methods of pre-Independence regimes, usually in far more brutal ways.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: The son also rises, for Arab misfortune

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...