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Downfall of Military Totalitarianism in Arab World

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mohammad Khajouei
Master’s Degree in Middle East Studies

About nine and a half months following the fall of the former Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, the people of Egypt have taken to streets once again in widespread protests to the ruling military council. They charge the council with trying to eliminate democratic achievements of the Egyptian revolution. The question is “are the Arab countries, including Egypt, moving in the direction of increasing the role of military institutions and reproduction of military totalitarianism or not?”

There are many analysts who are pessimistic about the current situation in the Arab countries and believe that the revolutionary zest in people will ebb after a time and those countries will then experience another period of dictatorship and this time in its military form. The military figures in these countries may first pretend to be in line with the revolution, but then turn into full-blown dictators.

It seems that such a pessimistic view arises from lack of correct understanding of the exact nature of recent popular movements in the Arab countries. They presume that more than anything else, the recent uprisings in the Arab world seek to cause changes to the apex of the power pyramid. When this goal is reached, these countries may be once more governed by rulers quite similar to the past. The reality on the ground, however, seems to be quite different.

Despite clear differences among protest movements that have been sweeping through the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa in the past few months, all of them have one basic feature in common. It is people’s demand for having an increased part in making large-scale decisions of their countries.

In other words, we are witnessing a gradual, but progressive change in paradigm and origins of the political power in the Arab countries whose result is people becoming the pivot of the political power. Therefore, the main goal of the Arab uprisings has not been simply to change dictatorial rulers, but they are targeting the very political structure and the method of rule in those countries. This is the main point which is indicative of a basic change in political systems of the Arab countries.

Therefore, recent protests to the ruling military council in which many Egyptians have taken part in order to pressure the military into accepting a rapid transition of power, can be held as an indication that the main concern of people was not simply to dethrone Mubarak, but to change the form and structure of power and its main origin. Therefore, some analysts predict that the Egyptian military council will not be able, as a result of the public opinion’s pressure, to further expand its power, but will also lose the influence that it sways right now.

Modern information and social networks have played the most important part in enlightening people and even served as major channels of political action in the ongoing uprisings and social movements in the Middle East. They have also changed the concepts of social group and social action in modern times. Global information and social networks have turned the 21st century world into an interwoven web which provides new possibilities for the exchange of information and interaction among human beings at an international level.

This is not limited to rapid transfer of news and information alone, but has also introduced a new form of awareness and has presented it to the world. Through such networks, new social groups have come into being and are connected. They also make links among fates of humans, governments and social institutions in various parts of the world and create great domestic and global forces in relation to a given social movement. Such features were not conceivable in the 19th century and even in early years of the 20th century.

This modern global network calls for a new way of democracy and political efficiency which is basically incompatible with the rule of governments that arise from military totalitarianism. A centralized and totalitarian government cannot continue to survive within framework of global information networks and a society in which the young middle class are in connection with. Therefore, military totalitarianism has no room to sway power anymore and even if such rule is enforced temporarily by a centralized totalitarian government, that government will prove incapable of solving social problems like they did in classic models. This is because such government will not have the backing of various social groups and classes and will be invariably faced with various political and social crises.

New movements in the Arab countries are not simply seeking to make changes at the apex of the power pyramid, or even to bring about more efficient governments. They are, however, fruits of a new form of awareness which calls for the establishment of moderate, democratic governments. Therefore, even if powerful military figures managed to claim a share of the future power structure in these countries, they will have no choice, but to get attuned and coordinated to this new network of awareness and allow for people to do their part in the political process.

Although democratic institutions are not still in place in many Arab counties and people in those countries have a long way to go before reaching the desirable point, it is not likely that new social movements in these countries will lead to resurgence of totalitarian military rules. On the opposite, they are sure to lead to the establishment of moderate, democratic governments.

More By Mohammad Khajouei:

*From Arab Spring to Incriminating Iran: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/From_Arab_Spring_to_Incriminating_Iran.htm

*Iran & Bahrain: Necessity of Mutual Understanding of Interests: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Bahrain_Necessity_of_Mutual_Understanding_of_Interests.htm

*Iran & Turkey: Rival or Complementary?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Turkey_Rival_or_Complementary_.htm

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