North African Dominos

January 31, 2011

Revolutions are fascinating to watch and so unpredictable.  All too often, whoever is most ruthless ends up commanding the top of the mountain when the dust finally settles.  The rallying cry of the French Revolution — life, liberty and equality — wound up with Napoleon and tragedy for Europe.  In Russia a century later, the Mensheviks were swept aside like a rag doll by the tougher Bolsheviks.  Cuba’s people’s revolution merely bridged from one dictatorship to another.

The Arab world has proven able to handle democracy well.  Political change in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan led neither to more freedom or,equally important, greater stability.  Lurking in the background is Al Qaeda, which has been gaining increasing influence in North Africa.  In the former French colony of Niger, for example, a series of Al Qaeda-orchestrated recent incidents culminated recently with kidnappings and killings of French nationalize in the center of the the capital city of Niamey.  A revolution in Egypt or nascent democracy there would be a tempting target for Al Qaeda infiltration.  Quite possibly, terrorist cells are already in place agitating the crowd. 

In Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s reform movement has a leader with great credentials, an ideal person at this early stage.  But history suggests that he could easily become marginalized by radicals with hateful and regionally destabilizing aspirations.  The fact that traffic through the Suez Canal is still flowing offers only tenuous comfort to a region where many more political dominos could be toppled.

Copyright Larry Greenberg 2011.  All rights Reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.


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