Saturday, January 15, 2011

Revolt In Tunisia and Potential Fallout

The significance of this week's revolt in Tunisia and ouster of a authoritarian leader is not that is was done through grass-roots efforts rather that it occurred in an Arab nation.

The catalyst -- they all have a catalyst -- was a street vendor setting himself on fire following a governmental crack down on him not having a vending license. Massive government corruption has been going on for years. Add to this the lack of economic opportunities, unemployment, social controls and a youthful society.

Will the results be a democratic Tunisia in the Middle East / Northern Africa? Who knows. We do know that after 23 years, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali resigned and has taken refuge in, of all places, Saudi Arabia. What will fill the vacuum is a major concern, especially in an Islamic country. Will it be democratic in nature? Will it be a dictator or another authoritarian? Will it become an Islamic / Sharia nation? A red flag goes up when Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb wanted Ben Ali out.

It is unlikely that Tunisia will resemble a western democracy. The Islamic forces are too strong in this nation to let this opportunity go. More likely, it will be an authoritarian government lead by religious zealots. There are no real Arab democracies in the Middle East. Lebanon tried but has not quite figured it out, and probably never will.

Tunisia has its opportunity but as history suggests, it will get it wrong for the majority of its citizens.

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