Burcu Bostanoğlu: Libya et. al.: Rumblings from the margin of the world


Whether named as a military dictatorship, an autocratic rule, a despotic state, or kleptocracy; the regime in Libya is becoming visibly senile. Does this mean democracy will soon be blossoming in the Maghreb and the Mashrek of the Arab world? Only the most naive utopian can believe in such accelerated progress. But as of now, the delightful thing to see is the immense hatred for the regime among the young. Although Colonel Qaddafi?s rule has and had decided that it is and was easier to frighten people than to persuade them, it is obvious that the younger generation despises the oppression. Therefore overall, the jasmine insurrections in the region require an analysis with a certain ?pessimism of the intelligence? as well as an ?optimism of the will?.

A whole lot will be glaringly missing from a social, economic and political analysis, without reaching into the psychological realm. Collective insecurity and fear change the societies in which they occur and target the body, the psyche, and the socio-cultural order. An enduring situation of marginalization will tend to produce reaction in any type of societal situation. Social dynamics in this case – not only in Libya, but throughout the Arab world – are clear: Various combinations of economic deprivation, political impotence, frustration, humiliation, hopelessness and a sense of existential threat has culminated in unavoidable insurgence. Subjected for a long enough period to what they perceive as patterns of gross injustice and disrespect that show no signs of changing, peoples of this land finally got extremely pissed off and acted accordingly, regardless of the odds.

Dual-marginalization is at the roots of this recent upheaval: marginalization of the Arab World from the global order and within the Arab World, marginalization of the populations from authority structures. Even a cursory glance at the Arab World as a part of the global system and Arab History as a part of the World History portrays a past which has been marginalized. While significant differences are to be found among Arab countries, it is true that on the whole, Arab society has perceived a long term alienation from the ?modern way of life?.  The Arab World had been pushed to the margins of World History long before Napeleon?s 1798 invasion of Egypt inaugurated the West?s modern penetration of the area. But since then, the region has withdrawn even farther back from the sidelines of the currents of the modern life, intellectualy, culturally, politically and ?save for its largely passive role as a provider of oil- economically. In sum and overall, despite general improvements, Arab states have been ?underachievers?.

The West?s rise to global preminence in the modern times has perpetuated the shared Arab bitterness and has mutually fueled the construction of negative stereotypes. Arab World?s marginalization from the global order has long been manifested in the realpolitik of dominant powers towards this geography. The story is the same, whether it is the 132 years of French colonial adventure in Algeria, or French policies in the Levant between the two world wars, or Britain?s multi-faced Arab policies between 1882 and the late 1940s or Washington?s approach to the region throughout the cold war. And the more recent history of the region in the times of globalization mirrors  a dim picture. For more than a half century, petro-dollars have tied the area to global economy and as oil-rich Arab regimes put their wealth to political use, fueled self-serving domestic policies, inter-Arab rivalries, arms races and local wars?all of which helped undermine the quality of life of the region?s people.

In short, most of the Arab World?s national power structures have clientalistic character in their own domains, and are in turn dependent on clientalistic relations with global powers. While Arab society on the whole is highly and rigidly stratified and social mobility remains elusive for an individual Arab; so is the Arab World?s incorporation into the modern global order fleeting.

Inside the Arab society, limited economic development has helped undermine vehicles of social mobility and thus heightened social rigidity while authority structures perpetuated these social dynamics; in turn those same authority structures have long been maintained-and in many cases were created by external powers. The region?s incorporation into the world economy has continued to benefit only the minority of Arabs who are in ancestrial, religious, tribal, ethnic, familial, affliations and positions to take advantage of it. The result, seen in Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Tripoli and other cities, is the enormous disparity of income and life-styles. While members of the affluent minority can enjoy the best of modern life style, for the rest, it is unattainable. In Libyan thesaurus, this translates into ?socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest?.

What the world is witnessing in these days is the result and impact of the prolonged marginalization of the Arab peoples and the Arab World. The world according to them is severely unbalanced and if the ongoing imbalance is reproduced, massive damage will spread to other geographies like ripples in a pond.


Burcu Bostanoğlu is  Proffesor at Department of International Relations, Gazi University, Ankara

update: This piece is translated into Italian here and here.

And a rounup by Erkan:

Libya?s Fate will have a Major Impact on Europe

from Blogactiv by EuroGoblin

IT?S AMAZING what can happen in two weeks! Since my post on the ?Year of (Arab) Revolutions? on February 13, the winds of change have hit Libya with a vengeance. Of all the countries in the region, Libya is the one whose fate will have the greatest short-term impact on Europe. The international community has reacted relatively quickly to the Libyan crisis; the United Nations agreement on sanctions will lead this week to the EU implementing a package of sanctions including a freeze on personal assets of a named list of individuals, an arms embargo and a travel ban ? which will match the measures announced by President Obama last week.


Gaddafi: a model for the middle east’s “mad men”, Arash Falasiri

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Arash Falasiri
Gaddafi’s resistance to popular demands and violent response presents a new model for regimes to resist democratic uprisings with extreme violence, mercenary arms, and the suppression of communications. Either countermeasures are adopted that limit the power of regimes to suppress their people, or citizens will continue to die at the hands of mad men.

NATO Involvement in Libya is a Bad Idea

from Blogactiv

THE LATEST developments from Tripoli and the surrounding towns demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gaddafi is a madman. By attacking his own population and killing them indiscriminately, he and his family are disqualified from the human race, let alone from leading an important oil producing country like Libya.

Turkey says Nato move on Libya ‘absurd’

from FT.com – World, Europe
Intervention in Libya by a western military alliance would be an ‘absurdity’ that would confirm Arab suspicions that the region was being exploited for its oil, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has argued


Civil society in Arab societies

from From the field by arn

“The distinction between civil society associations as means and ends is an important one.  The institutions of free government are essential to a free society.  But political and economic freedoms are rights of individual persons, not of a society as a whole. Governments have centralizing and enlarging tendencies that can compromise individual freedoms ? hence the role of civil society in mediating between individuals and government institutions. The absence of such spontaneous and individual-based free associations therefore becomes a major hindrance for countries emerging from authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. In effect, if not by conscious design, such associations demand and teach individual responsibility for the maintenance of a larger free society.

Libya’s information walls come tumbling down

from FP Passport by Blake Hounshell

In case there were any remaining question that Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the scion of Libya’s fast-fading leader, is not exactly the brightest star in the galaxy, he dispelled those doubts today by appearing on the Al-Arabiya satellite channel to declare that “everything is normal” in Tripoli even as news outlets reported on growing signs that the Qaddafi family is losing its grip on Libya.

The Muslim Brotherhood in post-revolutionary Egypt

from Hurriyet Dailynews by HDN
The Muslim Brotherhood will need some time to find its bearings in a political scene becoming complex by the day.

Palestinians Join Facebook Revolution Trend

from All Facebook by Jackie Cohen

Libya: The African Mercenary Question (Videos)

from Global Voices Online by John Liebhardt

Iran: Protests to Free the Opposition Leaders (Videos)

from Global Voices Online by Hamid Tehrani

Cameron’s no-fly zone fervour not shared by US

by Mark Mardell (the Reporters)

Where would Tony Blair have been without George W Bush?

When accused of slavishly following America’s lead over the invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair used to joke: “It’s worse than that, I believed in it!”

Italy’s Libyan dilemma

from BBC News | Europe | World Edition
Rome’s difficulties in responding to unrest in former colony 

The sly return of ?civilian power??

from Ideas on Europe by European Geostrategy

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