Brutality or passivity; the option for Arab leaders

There is a political crisis in Iraq that the cabinet is dealing with by ignoring. In Egypt, there is also a crisis which the country’s governance considers expected. It also considers that by ignoring it, time will end up resolving it. In Libya, parties face the crisis there by fortifying their positions behind tribal and regional affiliations.

In Tunisia, it was possible to temporarily vent the crisis. However, there have been no substantial changes. In Yemen, there is a crisis that the national dialogue began its one thousand mile journey to resolve. In Syria, there is a crisis that the regime chose to confront with extreme brutality scattering its possibilities to win and thwarting the opposition’s chances of victory.

Chaos gives power

Nuri al-Maliki knows the roadmap to end the Sunni provinces’ uprising against him well. But he simply does not want to resolve the crisis estimating that he will get out of it with less capability to manipulate authority and laws as well as less capabilities to intentionally misuse the judiciary, security forces and army. The Egyptian president knows well what he has to do to put an end to the strife residing in Cairo’s streets. But the Guidance Office totally overlooks any concessions unless there are gains that serve the empowerment plan.

These new regimes gained their strength from the fact that they were voted for. But this has shown that elections alone do not guarantee legitimacy

Abdul Wahab Badrakhan

The Syrian president knows what the steps to hold dialogue and achieve a political solution are. But he rejects anything that makes him look like he admits he is no longer the ruler and head of authority. He therefore prefers to either lose authority under the power of arms or maintain it just because he thinks he will remain the strongest on the military level.

Among the five countries that witnessed popular uprisings, change in two of them occurred with a limited amount of violence and blood. They are Tunisia and Egypt. The maximum amount of violence and blood was in Libya and Syria. The moderate amount was in Yemen which until further notice will remain a special model thanks to regional and international interferences to have the previous regime accept the truth that its time was over.

It is clear that the level of violence controlled the path of the transitional phase and formed it here and there. But this phase began to deteriorate due to many mistakes and security’s and militias’ chaos.

It is true that the common belief is that political Islam is on the rise. But the performance of this new governance ,whether it is Islamic or not, reflected a political approach that has limited maturity and experience.

Democratically elected, lacking legitimacy

These new regimes gained their strength from the fact that they were voted for. But this has shown that elections alone do not guarantee legitimacy. These regimes are attempting to strengthen their capabilities since they see that there is a historical opportunity ahead of them to control authority for a long upcoming phase. They think that the best means to complete this legitimacy is to count on means of legitimate violence, that is security forces and the army. As these regimes seek to totally control security forces and the army, they do not hesitate in developing their own militias.

This does not mean that security forces and the army are against these new regimes. They are with the government and they assume that social harmony is the state's task and not theirs. But if the state itself is in a dispute with the society and if the state itself is the reason behind a division that may lead to violence, then the army and security forces cannot replace the government to end divisions. It is absurd to pressure them to interfere to serve one category's interest at the expense of another.

During a talk show, rather an Egyptian televised debate, an opposition figure insisted it was important for the army to intervene. He asked his rival who supports the regime why the army was automatically loyal to the previous regime but is hesitant now under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. They both forgot that few months ago, they chanted “down with the military rule” together. They also missed it that the “revolution,” which is their reference, has altered circumstances and minds. It was expected that elections will achieve a situation where managing crises will be the government’s task. But the government’s failure to do so cannot mean the immediate act of resorting to the military institution.

Rising awareness


Everyone is aware now, whether in Egypt or any other country, that holding elections before agreeing on a constitution is wrong. This is because elections criticize a political culture that recognizes plurality and the practice of politics based on a democratic legacy.

Due to this shortage, nothing guarantees that agreeing on a constitution prevents manipulating its implementation by using several excuses such as those related to “legitimacy.” What the new regimes lack is admitting that democracy is still in the process of being established. Therefore no party can rule alone even if it has the majority in parliament. Participation was one of the most prominent demands during the previous reign and it is still as such during the current reign.

The manner in which crises were managed in Egypt and Iraq for example has shown that governance is being passive on purpose. It has turned a deaf ear towards protests hoping that protesters will at the end get tired and stop. This passivity has become the synonym for the brutality we witnessed in Libya and which we are still witnessing in Syria.


This article was first published in Al-Ittihad on March 26.


Abdul Wahab Badrakhan is a Lebanese journalist, who writes weekly in London’s Al-Hayat newspaper among other Arab publications. Badrakhan was a journalist in ‘Annahar’ (Beirut) until 1979, in ‘Annahar Arabic & international’ magazine (Paris) up to 1989, in 'Al-Hayat' (London) as managing editor then deputy editor in chief until 2006. At present, Badrakhan is working on two books. The first book is on the roots of the experiences that have motivated young Arab men to go to Afghanistan. The second is devoted to Arab policies to counterterrorism, starting with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and covering the ensuing wars.

Last Update: Wednesday, 27 March 2013 KSA 13:17 - GMT 10:17
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