"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."*
*Source: David Ignatius's article 'Beirut's Berlin Wall' in the Washington Post quoting Walid Jumblatt - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45575-2005Feb22.html
Since the extraordinary events started taking place across the Middle-East both camps that arose after 9/11 that were either for or against foreign intervention have risen up proudly proclaiming that their side has been vindicated. The 'Neocons' are claiming that the policy in Iraq was the first forceful push of the Democratic Dominos that we see now and the isolationists (also known as the liberal-left), have claimed that that this proves that they were right all along and that it was perfectly possible for the people of the Middle-East to rise up without the need for aggressive intervention. The truth is, it is very hard to tell whether these events have taken place because of, or in spite of the Iraq War. It is my understanding that, most of the Muslim world tends to view the Iraq War in the typical 'War For Oil/ Israel' vein and would have been put off by the chaos that ensued post-2004, although the quote above suggests that there are some alternative narratives that are floating about.
These events have produced a chorus of the typical cliches we hear from the left on these issues including many that are trying to re-write history and pretend that they had no problem with the morality of intervention merely the practicality of one, despite the huge strain of liberal thought that became as realpolitik and isolationist as the Paleoconservatives and in many cases went as far as actively supporting the insurgency. The confusing and vacuous discourse that grew out of those years opposing the overthrow of a murderous tyrant have left them in a bit of a muddle. We hear lefties criticising Tony Blair for having done deals with Gaddafi despite his effort's stopping Gaddafi's programme for nuclear weapons (and imagine where we would be if that had failed). We also hear them criticising the Americans for not having done enough to ferment democracy in Egypt. So the Americans that were utterly 'stupid' to think that they could democratise the Middle-East in 2003 are being told off for full blown intervention in Iraq, warned against light intervention in Libya, but will also be condemned if they don't do much at all as in Egypt. Is it any wonder that the Americans are so well known for completely ignoring world opinion?
Whatever will come of these uprisings there is cause for great hope and cause for great worry. Whatever emerges from the instability and toppling of these regimes relies first and foremost on military might. Will the civilian population of Libya organise and arm themselves effectively enough to fight off the members of the military that stay loyal to Gaddafi, or will in fact most of the army defect against the former regime? With the left's new religion of isolationism they will not be receiving any support from us so as the death toll increases daily, we have to hope that the Libyan spirit prevails. There is another mistake however that a lot of people are making while analysing the situation in the Middle-East. While it is fairly clear in many of these countries what the general population do not want, it is not entirely clear what they do want. Europe was not a democracy with a separation of Church and State from the outset. It took many, many years and far more bloodshed than is currently being spilled in the ME for that to come around. It is clear that the human response to oppression has kicked in and the people have made it clear that they do not want to be governed by dictators. Ethnography is important here. Political institutions do not spring out of a vacuum, but evolve over time, and despite the promising signs that we are witnessing in the Middle-East there is nothing in the Middle-East's history to suggest that these regimes will suddenly become, pluralistic, free-speech loving, Israeli tolerating and Islamist condemning nations by the end of the year.
For the time being we see people united by a singular goal of removing their dictators but were a democratic state to emerge then over the next few months political factions would rapidly emerge dividing the people that currently march together. There is nothing particularly wrong with factionalism either, as long as there are institutions to satisfactorily deal with those differences in an open and peaceful manner. This was one of the benefits of Operation Iraqi Freedom, because the Americans were able to create a blueprint that could (and has) been unilaterally applied with all of the different factions of Iraqi society participating and working out their differences. We cannot safely assume that the anarchy that will result in the event of a successful overthrow of the state will not descend into civil war and the complete breakdown of society. To make sure this does not happen not only must there be a political evolution, we must also witness a religious revolution. Islam has still not gone through the enlightenment process that Christianity and Judaism has gone through in the West. There was a time even in Europe when Catholics and Protestants were not equal before the law and living harmoniously, with the Middle-East in such an infantile stage of its democratisation if that is in fact what it is going through, there are far more reasons to be more wary in this unpredictable time than positive. The two hopes of countering these difficulties are the birth of social networking and the possibility of a UN lead intervention.