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An alternative perspective on the "Arab Spring"

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    I have been spending my time doing research and trying to make sense of all the events in the Middle East and Africa so that I could write a blog article (or a series of blog articles), but the more I read and learn, the more complex the situation appears. We could go back a few years or centuries to postulate how events might have been different with lots of "would have, could have, should haves", but assigning blame is a lot easier than finding workable solutions. I have mentioned the Arab Spring in several forum posts and the socioeconomic conditions of high youth unemployment exasperated by climate change and mass migrations of people, particularly in Syria, to rural to urban centers. However, that position only cherry picks part of the problem. An alternative perspective is provided by Gilbert Achcar, a professor of development studies and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and author of The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising. He shares his views in an interview with Al Jazeera.

    Al Jazeera, January 28, 2016: Q&A: The terrible illusion of the Arab Spring

    Alhcar asserts that the core issues at the heart of the "Arab Spring" were primarily socioeconomic, and that the revolutionary process is bound to continue for decades to come. He doesn't like the term "Arab Spring" and instead uses the term "Arab uprising" or a "revolutionary process" that he maintains is only beginning, with the specific violent events of the day called an "explosion".

    "I saw the explosion not primarily as the result of a political crisis, as it has been widely portrayed, or as one provoked by a thirst for political freedom. This was an important dimension of the uprising, to be sure. However, the deepest roots of the explosion were socioeconomic, in my view. For several decades, the Arab world has had the lowest rates of economic growth of all regions of Asia and Africa and the highest rates of unemployment in the world, especially youth and female unemployment.

    "Those were the crucial ingredients of the big explosion. And they are not issues that can be settled with a new constitution or a mere change of president. They can only be settled through a radical change of the social, political, and economic structures. They request a real social revolution, one that cannot be merely political."

    Achcar's views have broader global implications than just the Middle East whenever we talk about socioeconomic conditions, inequality and revolution. Outside of the above extract, I won't summarize any further. Those that are interested in the topic should read his article.

    I note that from the Amazon link, his book has had very few comments. That's unfortunate.

  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Yes, Schmidt, a touchy subject. It is not as simple as an "uprising", there are many elements what drives change, especially in area's where the time stood still; it will take a lot more than modern technology or media influx to progress. The biggest handicap is education if it is taught the right way. The biggest obstacle is of course "religion" because it does not tie into modern philosophy and science. Take religion out of the equasion then things will progress much faster.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Dutch -- Yes there a multitude of factors, and many overlapping or interconnected. I was going to write a more comprehensive article on ISIS, but you cannot dissect ISIS without getting into Al Qaeda as well...and then it goes back to Saudi Arabia and the export of Wahhabism (Salafism) worldwide. Sami Moubayed makes the claim in his excellent book, Under the Black Flag, "Without Wahhabisim, there would be no Saudi Arabia, no Islamic State in al-Raqqa today and no talk of al Qaeda or ISIS". Maybe...but other events might have transpired to push the course of events in another equally undesirable direction. There are unresolved issues around Israel and its apartheid policies, and the resultant permanent refuge camps. And then there is Iran and how it became our adversary after the CIA instigated coup called Operation Ajax. And of course, not only the destabilizing Iraq War, and its impact on the region. Collectively, it is complex, and I'll try bring some organization to the thoughts in the next few weeks.