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Hichem Karoui: Revolutions and Counter-Revolutions
May 06, 2012
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In the mid-1990s, the German social scientist, Gunar Heinshon, coined the term “Youth Bulge Theory,” to describe a trend in demography. The theory will eventually be developed by American political scientists, Garry Fuller and Jack Goldston. They argue that “developing countries undergoing demographic transition or those moving from high to low fertility and mortality rates, are especially vulnerable to civil conflict.” As we know since the great Ibn Khaldun , the conjugated effect of social and economic oppression and political repression is the gravedigger of any regime.

Lionel Beehner opines “the theory contends that societies with rapidly growing young populations often end up with rampant unemployment and large pools of disaffected youths who are more susceptible to recruitment into rebel or terrorist groups. Countries with weak political institutions are most vulnerable to youth-bulge-related violence and social unrest.”

I wonder how the ruling elites could be so irresponsibly blind to these truths.

In the beginning of the 1980s, Brzezinski, then “grand wizard” of the US foreign policy, coined the concept “arc of crisis” while arguing that from Afghanistan eastward to Morocco westward, this region constitutes a potential “powder keg” that might explode any time. The National Security adviser of President Carter was actually hinting at the elements that have already exploded literally on the face of Mohamed Ridha, Shah of Iran in 1979, and the US could do nothing to stop the revolution.

What happened then could tell us a lot about how a great popular revolution could be dragged far away from its objectives and even take a very dangerous turn with the capture of a foreign embassy – a precedent in the annals of diplomacy that would put Iran on the bench of international terrorists and pariahs.

The revolution that has been achieved by different secular and non-secular parties ended up completely overtaken (actually stolen) by the Shiite clergy to its own benefit. That was a coup against the revolution of the people whose first victims were the liberal elite and the left.

In the Arab world, where the majority is Sunnite, some are now scared that the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, may also be stolen, for the benefit of an ultra-conservative brand of Islamism.

Remember that such was also the case in Afghanistan.

Actually, when he coined the term “arc of crisis,” Brzezinski seemed more concerned by Afghanistan than by Iran. The latter has then completely escaped the American lap and has even grown dangerously hostile. But in Afghanistan where the red army has not been welcomed by the population, Brzezinski saw in the eventual organisation of an armed resistance the tool to destabilising the USSR and forcing it, if success is achieved, to recognise its biggest defeat in history, without direct confrontation between the two Superpowers. The “arc of crisis” means for Brzezinski that this region could be turned into a potential strategic depth for the Afghan resistance, with the help of “good-willing” Sunnite authorities, whose role would be to call the Arab Muslim youth to Jihad.

 Brzezinski’s plan has been successfully implemented. The Arab youth that started flocking to Afghanistan to take part in the “holy jihad” against “the Empire of Evil” (as Reagan dubbed the USSR) were far from imagining that they were actually helping the CIA dig the grave of the Soviet reign. Meanwhile, the plan helped the Arab regimes entangled in innumerable social and economic difficulties to get rid of an army of unemployed youth.

Let us remember that in those years (1980s) several revolts burst out in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria… and were severely repressed. The repression has achieved its goal in suppressing the protests, relatively because the war in Afghanistan had siphoned a great number of those unemployed youth. (Nothing of this kind happened in 2011.) At the same time, the Arabs who took the lead in organising the Afghan resistance, with the assistance of the Pakistani military intelligence and the CIA, succeeded in imposing their radical conception of Islam on the Afghan people as well as on the Mujahedeen, included those dubbed “Arab Afghans.” Weapons and cash were flowing. The Soviet Reign in that country was thus granted a perfect doom.

Brzezinski was not blind, but just “one-eyed.”

In manipulating the Muslims in his “arc of crisis,” the USA really succeeded in pushing the USSR to its last ditch: the defeat in Afghanistan turned to be fatal to the Soviet empire. The decade of the 1980s also witnessed the first great popular unrest in Poland, which would shake the Warsaw Pact and not just Jaruzelski’s rule.

Nonetheless, Carter’s adviser was all the same unable to forecast the developments that would take Afghanistan from a country of moderate Islam, as several still were in the “arc of crisis,” to a country of radical Islam, where ideology and barbarism are the same thing.

Therefore, if the Afghan revolt against the communist occupant was worth the sacrifices, the result was unfit and unfair to the population. The Afghan did not revolt because they could not grow their beards, throw half the population (the females) behind closed doors, and force an outdated anachronic body of laws on a contemporary society. Yet, that was exactly what they got.

Similarly, those in the Arab world today who express their fear may not be wrong. Revolutions could be stolen, manipulated, betrayed, and lead to another system of dictatorship, using the very slogans of the revolution: justice, fairness, freedom, human rights, private and public liberties, etc…

After all, one could see what became the ideal of socialism under Stalin and his heirs. “Popular democracies” as the communist regimes dubbed themselves were a jest of history.

Many people do not know that the French nobility in 1648 was the party who opened the way to the revolution, by renewing the Fronde against the king. That’s why the French historian Lefebvre says “it was an aristocratic revolution.” However, when Louis XVI was forced to yield and agreed to the calling of the Estates General, and the nobility thus conquered the parliament and the king, it lost the nation. For the nobility was unable to give up its social privileges in return for political power. Yet, even after all the really talented nobles – Lafayette, Mirabeau, Talleyrand – passed over into the camp of the third estate, it would be too late. The French revolution will also inexorably provoke a counter-revolution, like so many revolutions, when it instituted the “government by terror.”

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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)

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