Whether the dreams of Egyptian hopefuls come to fruition or are gradually worn down by a dominant military, the world has been electrified by the sight of the people of Egypt converging on places like Tahrir Square to protest the corruption, brutality, and venality of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, dictator for over forty years.
The Tunisian and Egyptian protestors were successful in converting the overthrow of a brutal dictator into a waiting game. That success quickly bred imitation across the Arab world, where populations have begun to think that perhaps they too might throw off the yoke.
What’s up with this wave of unrest? Sure, the rebellious populations have plenty to protest, but most of those grievances have been sore spots for decades. Why now?
Gwynne Dyer has a provocative answer: a growing perception in the Middle East and the Arab world that the US failure in Iraq basically eliminates any chance of American intervention on behalf of the harsh regimes we’ve historically supported in the name of anti-Communism or stability or whatever explanation the commissars came up with.
His theory that the US won’t intervene in the Lands of Oil is speculative; past empires have gambled everything they could find on maintaining that grasp just a little longer, passing up every chance to switch hands and grab a more reliable handle. Still, it makes sense in several ways. It’s not just Obama who’d avoid a war in the area, any more than it was just Carter who’d avoid a war in Southeast Asia.
As a result, the regimes that survived on the implied threat of American force exerted to maintain “stability” began to totter. Perhaps it was the self-immolation in Tunisia that sparked the widespread revolt, but there was some reason it wasn’t squashed immediately, whether by internal censors or by external ones. Dyer’s hypothesis deserves consideration.