The Arab Spring, another development of historic importance, might portend at least a partial “loss” of MENA. The US and its allies have tried hard to prevent that outcome — so far, with considerable success. Their policy towards the popular uprisings has kept closely to the standard guidelines: support the forces most amenable to U.S. influence and control. Favored dictators are supported as long as they can maintain control (as in the major oil states). When that is no longer possible, then discard them and try to restore the old regime as fully as possible (as in Tunisia and Egypt).
The Imperial Way: American Decline in Perspective, Part 2
by Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Reading excerpts from Marwan’s book, it is striking that he does not see the root of the problems in the Arab world to be deeply intellectual, but rather sees the problems as structural, and misuse of political power. Such an analysis would be most welcomed if it were true because then the problems afflicting the Arab world could be easily solved. The book however is an important contribution to the debate about the future of the Arab world. One hopes that this debate will be wide, deep and inclusive because transformation of the Arab world can only happen when the Arab world has built its transformation upon a profound understanding of human advancement.
It’s my contention that the roots of Arab problems are not civilisational, economic, philosophical, or theological per se, even if religion, development, and culture have had great influence on the Arab reality. The origins of the miserable Arab reality are political par excellence. Like capital to capitalism, or individualism to liberalism, the use and misuse of political power has been the factor that defines the contemporary Arab state. Arab regimes have subjugated or transformed all facets of Arab society.
How has the Arab Spring provided opportunities for science and technology?
A large part of it is people starting to think in terms of meritocracy. A huge potential of talent has been unleashed — talent that was previously held back by corruption and by cronyism, and by a disregard for meritocratic progress. This is when we can start talking about the Arab Spring becoming the Arab Summer — when we see people assessed on, and acknowledged for what they are able to contribute. You cannot have successful scientific cooperation without meritocracy. The great new freedom has started to entice a lot of the Arab diaspora — we have lost so many of our talented people in the past.
Is there a lesson for other Arab countries that have not experienced protests?
I think so and that’s not just the result of the Arab Spring. Slowly people have started to realise that the way forward is investment in human resources, not in cement or other commodities. And, while some of our neighbouring countries have put huge amounts into science cities and so on, ultimately it’s the working partnerships that we develop between different scientists that will make the big difference. In Jordan, our great resource is human capital and that is what we are investing in. When we think about the Arabic and Islamic world, the contribution we have made to science and technology is a very important part of our heritage, and now is the time for us to continue from where we left off.