I was astounded as I sat and watched Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed bin Helli reading out the resolutions of the 24th Arab summit, held in Doha. The resolutions plus the introduction, the conclusion, and the acknowledgments could have filled an entire book and the man almost lost his voice and was only able to resume reading after he was handed a glass of water. It was all very boring to the extent that some heads of state left the place to go somewhere else while those who had the patience to stay must have been preoccupied with other matters.
As usual, Arabs are not aware of what it means to hold a summit attended by kings, presidents, and notables. Those are supposedly not ordinary people. They are decision-makers who control diplomacy and move armies. They make the hardest decisions about taking certain actions or not taking any action at all. A decision, by definition, means effecting a change, but this is not the case with Arabs who seem to be repeating older decisions from previous summits then keeping them in a statement that will become the reference for the following summit.
There is no harm, of course, in holding a summit every year, but the ability to deal with a long list of issues is lacking, it will be enough to refer to the content of statements from previous summits not as resolutions, but rather as stance against or in favor of a certain issue or another, for this is the condition we have reached at the moment.
After listening to the resolutions I might have missed in the summits held during the past decades, it was time for satellite TV channels to analyze. I took part in some of the discussions and found out that the summit was quickly forgotten and only the Arab condition remained. As was the case in past decades, part of the discussions was about who to be held accountable for the miserable Arab condition from the point of view of the satellite elite.
This international conspiracy is responsible for one thing and its exact opposite: for toppling regimes and effecting drastic changes as well as for maintaining the status quo.Abdel Monem Said
This is where the great universal conspiracy theory comes to surface. It is not only the conspiracy that led to the loss of Palestine, but also one that triggered revolutions and uprisings in several Arab countries. It cannot be a coincidence, they said, that this happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, for they have to be some international, most likely American or Western, power behind all that. Flip the coin and you will see the same alleged conspiracy held accountable for the absence of revolutions in other Arab countries. In this case, this international conspiracy is responsible for one thing and its exact opposite: for toppling regimes and effecting drastic changes as well as for maintaining the status quo.
Skilful use of conspiracy
Conspiracy theories are used very skillfully. In the past, it was said that the West conspired against Saddam Hussein to deprive Arabs from Iraq’s growing power. It was also said that Saddam was nothing but an American agent who had already divided the nation and destroyed Iraq even before one shot was fired at him.
Now, the theory is changing with the change of time. This time, it is unbelievable how divided Egyptians have become or how they have taken to crucifying and burning criminals. This does not become a civilized nation and is only done by barbarians and that is why when it actually happened, it was attributed to a foreign conspiracy that aims at tearing our Arab countries apart or rendering the nation incapable of making important decisions.
In fact, conspiracy theories are old even if they still prevail in countries that are now developed. Conspiracy was one time Masonic, another Jewish, and at times a combination of both. Now it is summarized in a general term called the West or a more particular one called the United States. It is enough, it was said, that Condoleezza Rice talked about “creative chaos” and we have been hit by “chaos” but have never been that far from “creative,” maybe because this is the most important part of the equation.
As old as the conspiracy theory is, it is expected to disappear with progress, which in turn implies that heads of state become responsible for what they do. What is happening in the Arab world now had happened before, even more intensely, all over the world at times of revolution, chaos, and division.
The United States is itself the result of division, the separation from the British Crown and which happened through a revolution, many of whose leaders fought under the British flag then it accepted Canada’s separation. Between the federal and the con-federal constitution chaos was rampant across the United States that seven decades later engaged in a civil war over union and slavery.
Throughout all those stages, the foreign hand was there - such as France, Spain, and Russia, but what happened at the end was the result of American decisions, whose price was paid by Americans.
In modern times, the Soviet Union was under the pressure of an international siege then two invasions, one after the Bolshevik Revolution and another in World War Two. This was followed by the Cold War. At the end, it was divided into 15 republics after it had owned enough nuclear warheads to eliminate planet earth. This was all because the Communist system was not fit to stay.
Yugoslavia was divided into six countries, Ethiopia into two, and before them India also into two. All this happened through fierce civil wars. It was only in Czechoslovakia that the division took place without firing one single bullet.
The world was there in all these cases and countries have always tried to make the best of what is happening, but it wouldn’t have been able to do so had the parties involved adopted a different stance.
True, there are cases when the world deliberately carried out divisions like what happened in Germany, Vietnam, and Korea, but in the first and second cases there was a strong will to restore unity. Germans were able to lead Europe economically in a way that enabled the country to be reunited and revolution and armed struggle reunited Vietnam despite the United States and the West.
The destinies of nations are determined by what their people want and their ability to make decisions while knowing that every decision entails a price, to be paid in cash or human life. Nothing is free of charge!
Abdel Monem Said is the director of al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. He was previously a board member at Egypt’s Parliament Research Center at the People's Assembly, and a senator in Egypt's Shura Council.