For those who don’t understand why President Obama and his European allies are having such a hard time siding with Egypt’s forces of democracy, the reason is that the amalgam of social and political forces behind the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt today – and who knows where tomorrow – actually constitute a far greater threat to the “global system” al-Qa’eda has pledged to destroy than the jihadis roaming the badlands of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen.
Mad as hell
Whether Islamist or secularist, any government of “of the people” will turn against the neoliberal economic policies that have enriched regional elites while forcing half or more of the population to live below the $2 per day poverty line. They will refuse to follow the US or Europe’s lead in the war on terror if it means the continued large scale presence of foreign troops on the region’s soil. They will no longer turn a blind eye, or even support, Israel’s occupation and siege across the Occupied Palestinian territories. They will most likely shirk from spending a huge percentage of their national income on bloated militaries and weapons systems that serve to enrich western defence companies and prop up autocratic governments, rather than bringing stability and peace to their countries – and the region as a whole.
They will seek, as China, India and other emerging powers have done, to move the centre of global economic gravity towards their region, whose educated and cheap work forces will further challenge the more expensive but equally stressed workforces of Europe and the United States.
In short, if the revolutions of 2011 succeed, they will force the creation of a very different regional and world system than the one that has dominated the global political economy for decades, especially since the fall of communism.
This system could bring the peace and relative equality that has so long been missing globally – but it will do so in good measure by further eroding the position of the United States and other “developed” or “mature” economies. If Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and their colleagues don’t figure out a way to live with this scenario, while supporting the political and human rights of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, they will wind up with an adversary far more cunning and powerful than al-Qa’eda could ever hope to be: more than 300 million newly empowered Arabs who are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more.