The Arab Awakening

Rami G. Khouri in The Nation:

Images When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in rural Tunisia on December 17, 2010, he set in motion a dynamic that goes far beyond the overthrow of individual dictators. We are witnessing nothing less than the awakening, throughout the Arab world, of several phenomena that are critical for stable statehood: the citizen, the citizenry, legitimacy of authority, a commitment to social justice, genuine politics, national self-determination and, ultimately, true sovereignty. It took hundreds of years for the United States and Western Europe to develop governance and civil society systems that affirmed those principles, even if incompletely or erratically, so we should be realistic in our expectations of how long it will take Arab societies to do so.

The countries where citizens are more actively agitating or fighting for their rights—Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen are the most advanced to date—have very different local conditions and forms of governance, with ruling elites displaying a wide range of legitimacy in the eyes of their people. Governments have responded to the challenge in a variety of ways, from the flight of the Tunisian and Egyptian leaderships to violent military repression in Syria, Libya and Bahrain, to the attempt to negotiate limited constitutional transformations in Jordan, Morocco and Oman. A few countries that have not experienced major demonstrations—Algeria and Sudan are the most significant—are likely to experience domestic effervescence in due course. Only the handful of wealthy oil producers (like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) seem largely exempt, for now, from this wave of citizen demands.

More here.