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Archive for February, 2011

The democratic revolution in Egypt poses a challenge to Al Qaeda. The movement’s #2 leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, was tortured in Mubarak’s jails in the 1980s. He emerged a hardened murderer, convinced that terror is the only way to topple corrupt Arab regimes and hurt the “far enemy” in America that supports such governments.

This narrative has been undermined by the success of nonviolent resistance in Egypt and Tunisia (will Bahrain or Yemen be next?). The democratic movements show that authoritarian regimes can be transformed through peaceful means (almost all the violence in these struggles has been perpetrated by the pro-government side).

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An activist tweeted the other day that we should ‘celebrate world revolution.’ Certainly the social upheaval sweeping through Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the Middle East is one of the most dramatic expressions of ‘people power’ in history. Never before have the people of the region mobilized in such vast numbers to shake off the chains of autocracy. We can’t help but cheer when corrupt dictatorships crumble and oppressed people courageously resist illegitimate authority.

But will these momentous events lead to genuine democracy and a more peaceful future for the region? It’s impossible to say at this early date, but here are some observations.

While the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries have been mostly nonviolent, they do not fit the classic Gandhian model or follow the principles of strategic nonviolent conflict. Most of the people taking to the streets have faced repression with remarkable restraint and bravery, but some protestors have attacked military and police forces. Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed by state security forces, but casualties have been inflicted on the other side as well.

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