The Arab Spring is believed to be one of the most prominent sets of events in the Middle East after the end of the World War II. Moreover, analysts state that this problem will not be resolved in the next few years, which might lead to significant regrouping within the countries of the region where the demonstrations take place. The Arab Spring will also greatly impact relations between countries of Middle East and powers, which are situated outside the region, but have their own interests here (Jones 2012).
Discussion of the situation should be started with accepting the fact that all specialists “missed” the Arab Spring. Although all they knew was that something was fundamentally wrong with regional regimes, they did not manage to predict when and in what way the Arab Spring might occur. The main problem is that experts generally focus on the nuances of the present state of affair, forgetting about the small events that could lead to bigger ones (Caddis 1993). It resembles the situation when someone can see the trees well, but often fails to see the forest, especially the events that cause its cutting down.
To understand the situation in the Middle East better, it is reasonable to link the analysis of the events with at least a few factors of the financial crisis. Everyone knew that subprime mortgages were not efficient over the longer period, which could produce significant financial issues. However, nobody was interested in improving the situation immediately or in the nearest future. Furthermore, nobody wanted investors to get this information because they could take back their money. In the Middle East and northern Africa, the situation was very similar. The system of governance was expected to fail someday. The drivers of this were seen by experts beforehand. In particular, everybody realized that the mixture of authoritarian regimes and a significant number of quite educated young people without job and real power might lead to troubles (Jones 2012). The experts were surprised only at the trigger for the Arab Spring, high speed of changes and the links between events in all the countries of the region. This also unites the Arabic Spring and the financial crisis.
In general, most of experts agree that the Arab Spring has started a range of changes that are able to vary the course of the region in the future. Moreover, these changes will be fundamental. At the same time, there is no common idea where these processes will take the region because there have been uprisings in the Arab Middle East in the past, which had insignificant effects on launching long-term alterations. For example, this was seen after the uprisings in Lebanon in 2005 and Tehran in 2009. Experts are not even sure what may happen to these and other countries after the last events. Thus, Egypt and Tunisia have already had changed the top officials, but there were not any significant dismissals of the political elites (Jones 2012). The systems created by them also were left without changes. This particularly refers to economic regulation and government. On the other hand, more optimistic analyses exist, which demonstrate that there were efficient systematic changes in Libya.
According to researches, there are certain indicators that demonstrate that a country is at risk of fast destabilization. Thus, experts determined such factors as poverty, almost complete absence of economic opportunities and authoritarian regime that significantly influenced the situation. In fact, almost complete absence of economic opportunities is quite a relative signal because people can have different perception of poverty (Jones 2012). Therefore, people from richer countries may be less satisfied with their economic situation than people from the poorer ones.
Despite an attempt to determine indicators leading to uprisings, it is still difficult to predict which countries are at the biggest risk. Furthermore, experts have agreed not to apply “domino effects” here. Although there is a clear connection between the events that are occurring in one country and the rest of the countries in the region, it is not determined that there is an automatic spread of uprisings within the country and that it will have the same influence on certain territory. Nevertheless, appearance of the new types of media increases the chances of spread of the unrest to the other countries (Jones 2012).
The majority of experts also stated that the current events are the consequences of a mixture of immediate issues common to each state, the technological and social alterations happening in the region, and the wider historical tendencies. The immediate issues are mostly linked with a shortage of economic opportunities that is common to the range of countries of the Middle East. Moreover, it is also typical for countries that have started linearization of economy in the last few years because economic system of these countries is often based on crony capitalism, which is good for the western investors, but not for the states in general. The drawback of crony capitalism is a poor economic development that affects only a small privileged class (Jones 2012).
As for the economic future of the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, it is contradictory because there is not a single approach to defining it (Kimball 2013). In addition, traditional “western” way of improving economy, such as privatization of numerous state-controlled economic areas, is not accepted by ordinary citizens because they usually believe that all the state assets will be sold to a small elite class for the small prices (Jones 2012).
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Nevertheless, it was agreed that these “western” recipes for the success have to be introduced for achieving the economic growth expected by the population. Furthermore, the subsidies that are often used by the majority of regimes for obtaining the people’s loyalty are not efficient. However, new governments will have many problems of reducing them due to an attempt to meet expectations of their people and set their legitimacy. For instance, the new Egyptian powers have already changed basic subsidies and included more people in the government’s labor force. These factors demonstrate that there will be difficulties ahead, which might be resolved only when broad masses of citizens believe that the uprising has led to growing of their economic state (Jones 2012). Effective introduction of reforms is impossible without this.
Social and technical alterations that have led to the Arab Spring are connected with each other. For example, the capability of unemployed, educated and lonely urban young people to socialize and organize themselves with a help of social media have changed the perception of what is possible across the Middle East. Despite the differences between unrests in Egypt and Tunisia, Egyptians would not believe that they could overthrow Mubarak without seeing the events that had happened in Tunisia. Experts stress here the important role of the satellite TV channels, especially Al Jazeera. In particular, TV destroyed the prohibition of regimes on information, which allowed people of the region to see and hear critics of their leaders. This was impossible even a few years ago (Jones 2012). Negative side of spreading information is the reduction of stability in the region, but there is no way back in the context of new media reality of the Middle East.
The last trend that caused the Arab Spring is a much wider historical matter and it is connected with the way in which the countries of this region appeared. It is known that the current order was set at the beginning of the First World War from the remains of the Ottoman Empire. The regimes were established mainly by the European leaders in the way that was convenient for them (Fromkin 2009). Ancient tribal relations on the territories were not considered. Many of these countries and a particular number of the regimes exist today too, but the majority of them had problems with setting profound legitimacy. There is a variety of regimes based on clan lines or contemporary concepts if civic nationalism. Nevertheless, experts cannot decide what could replace the current order in the future. New policy has to be developed for both short- and long-term development (Jones 2012).
Some experts state that “Turkish model” should be applied in some of the countries in the region, but this was not accepted by the majority, especially by the specialists from the Arab states. The main drawback of the model is that Turkey has spent fifty years on achieving the current degree of democracy and stability. In addition, Turkey has membership in NATO and association with the EU, which is not possible for the Middle Eastern states (Jones 2012). The only positive aspect of this model is that it demonstrates the possibility of existing of secular Islamic country. At the same time, despite the fact that it provides a clear outline of how the Muslim society should look, Turkey cannot give a relevant roadmap that would show in what way other countries can get there.
Another aspect is that Arab countries do not have an agreed range of societal aims, which populations could try to pursue, and this is believed to be the main problem. In this context, events in the Arab Middle East are quite different from what happened in central and eastern Europe in the late nineties despite the fact that the Arab Spring is called a “1989 moment” (Jones 2012). Thus, after subverting communist regimes, European countries were in better position than Arab states today (Jones 2012). On the other hand, Arab countries have a nicer basis for starting reforms than former communist countries had.
If Arab countries fail to create societal goals and introduce reforms, it might lead to returning to authoritarian regime. As the result, these countries will adopt a system of “political Arabism” or political Islam, but most experts hope that there are small chances of this. Their ideas lost their motivating power (Walzer 2014). However, secular regimes might attempt to stimulate discussions about renewal of “political Arabism” to cover their internal failures (Jones 2012).
For the Western countries, it is important to design clear diplomatic and political strategies. Besides, it is necessary to realize that to have access to, impact on and opportunities in the region, the policy of supporting only one side should be denied. The specific role of Egypt also needs to be accepted. According to experts, the situation with reforms in Egypt will be important for establishing the tome in other regional states due to its significant amount of population and the political and cultural impact on the whole Arab world. At the same time, the Western countries should understand that it is not possible for them to govern all these events. If they try to do this, they will fail in interventions in certain cases (e.g. in Libya) and the invitations of the Arab League even despite having their own interests in the region. The past interventions were so unsuccessful that an attempt to perform intervention now would cause the negative reaction of populations, especially the young (Jones 2012). In other words, the Western countries should not be afraid of engaging in the events, but should be careful with intervening.
There were various social and technical changes that have led to the Arab Spring. In particular, social media also played an important role in the events because it expanded the collective perception of people’s possibilities across the Arab Middle East. Unemployed, frustrated, educated young people managed to talk to each other in real time and to arrange protests. The experience of other countries was also useful. For example, the Egyptians could believe in their strength after watching what had occurred in Tunisia. Besides, the satellite TV channels, and particularly Al Jazeera, also had a significant impact on the Arab Spring because they could break the regimes’ ban on information.
Therefore, people of the region got the opportunity to hear and see criticism of their powers and then discuss all this with each other. It was impossible a few years ago. Overall, new media reduced the ability of the regional regimes to control the message, which looks positive from the point of view of the Western countries. However, some experts state that such rapid increase in the freedom could also cause negative effects, such as destabilization in the region and continuous unrests. Nevertheless, there is no the way back in the context of the new media reality in the region.
Therefore, the aim of the Western countries is to design politic and diplomatic strategies for behaving in the new circumstances. They should try not to take just one side. As the history shows, intervention is also not reasonable. Instead, the West should be engaged in the process within adequate boundaries and give recommendations on improving the economic situation in the region. New governments are afraid of introducing reforms, so they need outside support. Populations also need attention since they do not believe in approaches of the Western states. For example, the people have negative attitude to privatization due to numerous cases of corruption.
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