Is the fate of the Libyan Revolution (or Counter-Revolution, if you’re Gaddafi), and whatever fascinating and powerful phenomenon may be happening throughout the Arabic world, coming down to these, what, 50 or so kilometers?
Ras Lanuf appears to be an interesting place, by the way. At the moment it’s just a small town surrounding an oil refinery. However, I stumbled upon these plans by the Gaddafi government to convert it into an “international world-class city and an economic hub”. (Click “read more” to see images.)
I think I’ve identified the root cause of my skepticism up to this point, and that’s that the concept of the “domino effect” argues that both the motivations across all countries are uniform, and worse, that the results will likewise be univocal and constructive. There is little regard for the forces, both positive and negative, that are evidently being unleashed in the region, much less the manifold reasons why these explosions are happening now.
Thus, my concerns about these revolutions have more to do with how they are conceptualized, by both Westerners and Arabs, than with their immediate ethics. That’s the knot I’ve been trying to disentangle in my own mind. Simply put, I don’t want these events, and all the lives changed due to them, reduced to just another romantic image or simplistic slogan–even though I know they shall–because that would reduce them to political tools: I can already hear American Republicans proclaiming the need to advance more revolutions like these across the world and Chinese Communists cracking down on their citizenry for precisely that very fear.
Such reductionism also does an injustice to the events themselves and all those who’ve partaken in them. Slate has a good essay on the topic, comparing these revolutions to the ones of 1848, and why we need to be more careful in our historiographical thinking. [If you wish, click "Read More" to read an excerpt.] In other words, dominoes are just too black and white to really capture the nuances of these happenings.
I’m in between appointments today, so I have to be quick: events in Libya, not to mention now Morocco, and of course Bahrain, continue to catch me totally by surprise. The truth must be that in my attempt to be cautious and academic, I’ve been blind to the fact that this phenomenon sweeping the Middle East, whatever it is, a true blue domino effect, local uprisings that perhaps take inspiration from each other but that are really just co-incident, or some development I just don’t have the intellectual framework for, could and indeed would have happened.
That’s been my analytical failing. Insofar that analysis and morality are not mutually co-exclusive, then I’ve also been in a moral grey area, from my not-so-nice views on Egypt and the Ikhwan, and whether those constitute a kind of hypocrisy or Western neo-imperialism, to just not knowing what to feel about everything else. On the one hand, it’s damn exciting to see the Arab world, and Iran and some other countries to some extent, really on the move; on the other hand, not only could I not predict it, but I can’t figure out what’s really more likely to happen.
And perhaps that’s the real lesson of this whole event: history can really be ineffable at the moment of its happening, and all the pundits and bloggers, myself included, just want to pretend we have mastery over it, when we really don’t. In effect, we blog, history laughs. Truly a humbling experience. Good luck to the people of the Middle East!
I’ve been downplaying the possibilities of a domino effect sweeping out from Tunisia and Egypt to encompass much of the Muslim world, but have I been wrong?