Politics: it’s all about choices

Mohammed al-Rumaihi
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The main characteristic of the deep Arab political crises around us is hesitation; whether full-blown or receding, we see hesitation in most – if not all – of the crises in which the Arabs are mired today. Reluctance to make a political choice results from the absence of political will on the one hand, and the abandonment of the modern national project on the other.

Examples of this abound, such as the Tunisian crisis. Tunisia’s political situation since the so-called “Jasmine Revolution”, which was described as “quick and gentle”, has continued to deteriorate, until we ended up in early 2022 with the current harsh crisis Tunisia is in – which is anything but gentle.

After 10 years of trial and error, it seemed that President Qais Saeed wanted to break with the past on July 25, 2021, but soon the same mistake (hesitation) occurred in presenting a project with a vision and backed by a will, until the political, economic and social issues piled up, and many of those who supported the “reform movement” were disenchanted with it. As a result of such hesitation, Tunisia soon plunged back into more crises than it had previously suffered, and this may lead to political impasses that are greater and more serious than before.

In Sudan, with the stepping down of Abdullah Hamdok, we can clearly see the impact of hesitation and loss of vision in the choices. A popular revolution, which overthrew an “ideological” rule that is hostile to the world, fosters international terrorism and has plunged Sudan into division, international isolation and mounting debt, needed unwavering decisions to move forward. No sooner had this revolution taken a few steps, it was crippled again by hesitation, and the “lesser coup” occurred, followed by a relative retreat from the coup, and then things returning to square one, which disrupted the economy and may lead to the fracturing of Sudan.

In the face of this process and the errors in interpreting societal transformations, the most likely outcome is the overthrow of the government, under the pretext of saving the country! Thus, Sudan enters into a downward spiral because of hesitation in making a political choice that keeps pace with the times.

Sudan's marches that fill its streets today do not have a head; but rather many heads, and over time, new and different heads appear between them. This hesitation may lead to the worst-case scenario, which is disintegration from within.

Hesitation is another characteristic we are witnessing in Iraq. Despite the relatively successful electoral process, there is still hesitation over a firm resolution to unite the armed forces. The fact that armed forces remain outside the state system is an effective feature of the disintegration and failure of the state. We see this hesitation in determining the character of the desired state: Is it a modern and independent national state, or a state in which the religious clergy – if we can call them that – play a key role, exploiting “historical myths” to mislead the public, and at the same time serving as an arena for the influence of others, and a nation that goes to the highest theocratic bidder?

Indecisiveness is a precursor to turmoil. Especially on two issues: arms, and affiliation with Iran, which manifests in many ways, the latest of which is the memorializing of the killing of a foreigner while ignoring the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.

The example affected by the most shameful political indecisiveness is Lebanon, despite the full knowledge of any Lebanese citizen, not just the political leaders, that the armed Hezbollah is an arm of a foreign country fighting in its name at home and abroad, and with this classification it is an agent of a foreign country and a vehicle for terrorism. Its leaders clearly declare as much and they have nothing to do with Lebanese interests; in fact they shun these interests as long as they obtain funding from abroad, which they use to keep their partisans afloat while sending their sons to fight in many arenas. It is no secret that Hezbollah partially finances itself by smuggling drugs in the region, plunging the Lebanese state into ruin and darkness. Despite this clear reality, the reluctance and hesitation of the political forces with an interest in awakening Lebanon remains. We hear shameful and contradictory statements from Lebanese politicians, who fail to call things by their name, rooted in hesitation rather than political courage to save what is left of Lebanon from free fall into chaos.

The most obvious and painful expression of hesitation is in the Palestinian arena. The observer is unable to sift through the declarations of the factions and movements about their intentions, paying lip service to the idea of uniting the ranks, which in reality are never united on the ground. Taking the appropriate decision at the right time with a data-driven approach is completely absent in the Palestinian decision-making circles, and reliance on whims, outbidding, quarrels, and even accusing the others of being traitors, is prevalent. There is also a dependence on regional powers who, as everyone knows, have their own agenda; the least of their concerns is the Palestinian national interest or the suffering of its people.

This is a sample to explain the crisis we are dealing with in some of our countries, but hesitation in political decision-making is inherent in many other Arab regimes, and the reason for this is that they severely lack the knowledge component in decision-making, thus, many decisions that have to do with the life and death of the citizen (and the homeland) are taken at random. In the words of an experienced friend, many decisions in a country are made on the basis that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, and that neither is connected to the brain!

We have in this region of the world a clear shortage of think tanks at the state level, and those that do exist – which are few – are mere “decoration” whose recommendations, if any, are not taken into account, or are bent to the whims of the decision-maker instead of guiding his decisions.

As the Arabic saying goes, the hand that trembles cannot take good aim, and a lot of time and money has been wasted in a number of Arab countries, due to the lack of a project for a modern state, and a sound knowledge-based approach to decision-making, which becomes subject to whims or even in line with an “uninformed public opinion” in the name of populism that does serious harm to the public interest.

In conclusion, ignoring three things leads to three outcomes: ignoring time leads to staying in place, ignoring participation leads to totalitarianism, and ignoring modern science leads to civilizational decline!

This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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