Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi embodies the failure of the Arab Spring Revolutions, which took a backseat to growing regional instability and the threat of terrorism. President al-Sisi was elected in an ill-democratic election that excluded competitive alternatives and occurred after then-General al-Sisi overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup that resulted from his attempt to use the fruits of a hurriedly organized election, which gave little time for viable, more representative candidates to establish themselves, to institute Sharia over democracy. Al-Sisi, who has continually proven himself to be an oppressive and brutal leader, is simply a return to the pre-Arab Spring government that was once headed by the ousted Hosni Mubarak. Trump’s very personal, and public, embrace of al-Sisi signals the formal return to the US foreign policy, which prioritizes military and economics interests above American’s democratic values and aspirations.
The Islamic State is considered the top US National Security threat by the Trump Administration. Globalized terrorism, which includes far more organizations than IS and goes beyond Islamic jihad, is a common threat to all the governments and Peoples of the world. The spread of IS was, however, made possible by the corruption-rooted incompetence of the Iraqi military and the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War was, in turn, part of the Arab Spring Revolutions, which were the direct consequence of oppressive, unresponsive governments neglecting and abusing the Peoples of the region for decades. The US may not have supported Syria’s Assad, but it has supported authoritarian regimes and their oppression of their own Peoples. In renewing America’s support of this kind of governance, which the Obama Administration leaned away from before somewhat embracing the practical need to establish working relationships with these governments, the Trump Administration leads the failure of the world to learn from the Arab Spring Revolutions.
The Arab Spring Revolutions are often blamed for fostering regional violence and instability. The Arab Spring Revolutions happened, however, because the Peoples of the Middle East, including North Africa, could no longer tolerate the failure of their unresponsive, egocentric governments to address their needs and wants. It was the unwillingness of government heads like Hosni Mubarak and Bashar al-Assad to even hear the voices of dissent, as well as their instinct to use violence against those who questioned them, that created room for groups like the Islamic State to flourish. The threat of terrorism and regional instability may have pushed revolution to the sidelines, but the need for change has not disappeared, thus the reasons for the terrorism and instability have not been addressed. Consequently, regressing back to foreign policies that support the abusive governance of the Middle East only fosters regional instability and propagation of terrorism.
The political, economic, security, and social troubles that have plagued the nations of the Middle East for decades is the legacy of oppressive European colonialism, which taught regional leaders to use brutality to establish one’s dominance, pursue one’s interests by suppressing others, and prevent dissent by breaking social, cultural bonds that might unify insurgents. Instead of overcoming this vicious cycle of abusive governance as the Peoples of the US and Europe more or less did inside their own country, Middle Eastern leaders have trained their successors and would-be successors to seek dominance through violence and other forms of brutality. Sadly, the US has followed in the footsteps of the colonial powers by installing, supporting, and protecting the abusive regimes of the Middle East, because they served America’s immediate national security and economic interests. The abusive US and European leaders simply learned to project their brutality outward instead of inward.
Much of the Middle East is divided along deeply entrenched sectarian and tribal lines. Just as many other former colonial territories were arbitrarily divided into nations, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, for example, were engineered to be artificial countries, even though the traditional communities of the territories have little or no common cultural identity. Coupled with the natural tendency to demonize one’s enemies, the impulse of domineering, abusive individuals to dehumanize outsiders and those too weak to be equals, compels leaders to seek dominance over rival factions. To boot, the support of terrorist groups by the United States, particularity during the Cold War, and the continued support of terrorist groups by the region’s governments as part of their efforts to undermine their regional rivals has empowered terrorist group to rip the region apart. It is not, however, just the governments of the Middle East and West that are failing to learn from history.
Where the US and the governments of the former-colonies learned to use abusive governance to subjugate foreign populations and terrorists to combat geopolitical revivals, Russia has learned to do so as well, which means it is making the same mistakes that all these nations have made. In utilizing insurgents in Ukraine, the Putin government has unleashed the forces of chaos, which will lead to blow back against the Russian People. In propping up the Assad regime, which is what the US did in Vietnam, Iran, and many, many other nation where the slow death of installed regimes have resulted in greater problems for the US, the Putin government is supporting a doomed government and prolonging war. Instead of teaching each other this destructive approach to foreign policy, world leaders must lead the world toward a world order where the first priority is empowering all the Peoples of the world and governments are judged on how well they serve their Peoples, not world powers.
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