The world hoped that Libya would repeat the experience of Tunisia and Egypt: a popular uprising that toppled the dictatorship fairly quickly and at modest cost, followed by an effort to begin consolidating popular governance. That now seems unlikely.
The fact is that almost everyone has dirty hands. Everyone: politicians (even “statesmen”), banks, governments, international organizations, newspapers, universities, scholars—they are now mortified to (have to) admit that they made common cause with Muammar Qaddafi and his favored son Saif. Thursday’s Financial Times carries a half-page article by Michael Peel on some of Qaddafi’s intimates: Tony Blair, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science, the Carlyle Group (America’s most politically wired investment ensemble), the great revolutionary democrat Hugo Chavez, etc.
Not since Saddam Hussein’s regime was demolished in 2003 has an Arab head of state run a more ruthlessly repressive terror state than Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were small-government libertarians by comparison.
Cairo, Egypt—For years, analysts and journalists have described the Egyptian masses as apathetic and embattled. But, after the last five days, it’s impossible to say this anymore. Since January 25, protesters have taken to the streets in Egypt’s major cities, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s almost 30-year reign. Here is an explainer of the main actors in Egypt today and what they may be thinking. The protesters. Egyptian men and women of all ages and social classes are amassed in central squares in major cities, including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Suez, and Aswan.
In early December, 1989, rioting broke out in the western Romanian city of Timosoara. Within weeks, the Ceaucescu dictatorship had fallen, the self-styled ‘Genius of the Carpathians’ and his wife, Elena, having been shot by an impromptu firing squad after a trial that was little more than a kangaroo court that condemned them for one of the things they were not guilty of: genocide. Before she was killed, Mme.
Actually, I didn’t read this anywhere—no, not anywhere—but in an A.P.
According to many media accounts, the protests that swept Tunisia, causing dictatorial President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia, were instigated by the gruesomely symbolic suicide in December of Mohammed Bouazizi, who some are calling “the father of the Tunisian revolution.”* In Tunisia’s choking atmosphere of unemployment, particularly among the young, Bouazizi had resorted to selling produce in the town of Sidi Bouzid.
What happened in Tunisia over the past few days was reminiscent of scenes from Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and ’90s: people’s power in action. But it is another historical parallel—to Iran in 1979—that has something to teach the West as it figures out how to respond. The toppling of Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Ben Ali, recalled the last days of the Shah, when riots against poor living conditions and calls for human rights quickly turned into demands for getting rid of a dictator.