Stability or change?

تم نشره في Sun 25 January / Jan 2015. 08:58 PM

By Fahed Khitan

Such a question was never an option before, and had no relevance. Change enhances stability and protects it; this truism is backed by global experiences. But the events the Arab world has seen in the past four years was worth being described as an earthquake that shook the region. Not only this, but what it shock the theories and axioms that existed in political science and the global movement for change.

Unfortunately, it has become a legitimate question; stability or change? In four out of five countries that saw popular revolutions, chaos prevailed and stability deteriorated to the point now that the unity of these countries is on the verge of collapse: Libya, Syria, Egypt and Yemen.

In other countries such as Bahrain, the attempts for change were over with putting the country in a state of constant turmoil, and under threat in the event of the withdrawal of the Saudi forces that intervened to protect the regime from falling.

Change did not only jeopardize the future of countries that witnessed revolutions only but also reached neighboring countries. For example, look at Syria; the resulting disastrous repercussions in Iraq and Lebanon, and the unprecedented pressure on Jordan. Chaos in Libya has also become a source of threat to neighboring countries and if it continues on this course it will threaten the security of Tunisia.

Popular and peaceful revolutions formed initially a painful setback for extremist powers such as al-Qaeda. But the chaos that prevailed then provided a fertile environment for the recovery of extremism, and gave birth to the most brutal and barbaric organization, that is the Islamic State.

All of these and other developments put the question of change and stability on the table, in a way that made those who advocate for reform in the Arab world unable to ignore. Traditional narratives in Arab reform rhetoric are no longer valid in the current phase. It is not enough anymore to repeat old "cliches" for the contentious relationship between reform and stability, democracy and revolution.

We have all missed, when we demanded change, the situation in Arab societies, and the size of the devastation that hit due to the long decades of despotism, cultural and religious heritage, which hampers their ability to think about the future. Additionally, the elites ignored the role of external factors, and the extent of their ability to influence the course of the internal shifts in more than one country.

Politically, Yemen was, for example, ahead of Libya; multi-party and not-too-few media freedoms. But these differences, as important as they are, did not put Yemen on a better path than Libya. After the recent developments, the future may be darker than Libya and Syria combined.

In Egypt, the situation is not comparable with other “Arab Spring” countries; whether political, cultural and intellectual elite, economically and politically vibrant middle and a wide and ideologically homogeneous public. But that did not prevent them from sliding the revolution to the brink of civil conflict, and the return of the old regime through the widest doors.

It is no longer possible today to convince the masses that the change will bring a better future. Experiences that lie around them do not give evidence of such. A new approach should be brought up to achieve change, without threatening the existing stability, regardless of its shortcomings. This is a challenge for the powers involved in change and reform in the Arab world. If you do not respond to this challenge, the stability train will leave without the change.



This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition