Is the ouster of the Tunisian President last week by grass-roots revolutionaries a catalyst for good or a sign that fellow Arab leaders need to crack down more?
The Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa was spot on when he said "the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession."
Nowhere in the Arab world does a real democracy exist.
Consider the Arab states: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen. Any stars here? Qatar or Bahrain? Maybe.
When we hear comments from Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak about how they need to do a better job promoting economic opportunities, it is laughable. The problem with these Arab nations is their forms of government. They are the few ruling the masses. The leaders craved, obtained and wallow in their power. They have no intention to lessen their grip on their citizens.
My experience in the Middle East is limited having spent a week in Israel including the West Bank and a week in Lebanon. The people are great. The bulk of them want to do the right thing -- get an education or learn a trade, raise a family, work at a job they can be proud of, enjoy the simple things of life. Most prefer a secular state giving people the freedom to worship as they see fit. Most are not Islamic zealots desiring an Islamic state.
Arab governments need to get out of the way, to allow commerce to flourish and for investments to be made. They need to promote their own form of capitalism by giving people the incentives to work hard and take risks. For most people in these nations, there is no hope. They cannot trust the government -- the current one or the next one -- to not destroy what they have built. Most will not try.
It would be a wonderful thing to see Arab entrepreneurs build businesses in manufacturing, technology, medicine, communications, and transportation. Outsiders would welcome the opportunity to invest and build plants and open regional offices in Arab nations if the political climate was favorable.
Unfortunately, favorable conditions do not exist in the Arab world. As such, poverty, unemployment and recession will be status quo as long as these governments exercise their selfish policies.