Monday, February 28, 2011

Middle East Solidarity and Fragmentation

The winds of change that are sweeping middle eastern countries may be just the beginning of turbulence with unknown consequences. It is relatively easy to get a population fired up against the status quo and an unpopular, authoritarian leader. During the process of such an attempted or successful overthrow of a government, the populace is essentially united because everyone wants the current situation to change. As soon as such a movement becomes successful, however, it becomes dangerous to all concerned, because unity will disappear as different segments of society push for their own agendas. This is the point at which power grabs and civil wars develop. The initial jubilation at overthrowing an authoritarian regime may be replaced by a lengthy period of groups jockeying for position and attempting to manipulate each other. External governments would be wise to be nonspecific in their gestures and declarations of support because they will not know nor be able to influence the final configuration of power centers for a long time to come. Enthusiastically backing a losing group may be at least as unwise as taking no public stance on the political upheaval process.

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