Last week at Penn, the realist scholar Ian Lustick said some interesting things about the Arab Spring. He speaks at about 1:10 in this video. Here’s my transcript:
I’d like to put [the Arab Spring] in more historical context. What you’ve got in the Middle East is decrepit regimes in which their decrepitude is being exposed. It’s an Arab order that lasted a lot longer than comparable orders in other parts of the decolonized world for a variety of reasons, including oil. But the process that we’re seeing is the process of masses becoming involved in politics. One of the things that was true of all the Arab countries is that what the masses wanted didn’t matter. Because of oil, because of the connections of strategic rents relationships with outside powers, because of strong militaries connected to monarchies and state bureaucracies and so on. And for other reasons.
But this process in which the masses become relevant to politics– in Europe this went on for decades and decades, to play itself out in its implications. To think, that, well, the Arab Spring didn’t happen exactly the way we had hoped. My god, It hasn’t barely started. The Arab spring is really the opening of the masses… and the Egyptian situation is not over. That regime is not going to last. It’s not going to be the way masses enter politics in the Middle East. That’s [the regime’s] whole raison d’etre, is to prevent that from happening. They’re trying to keep their finger in the dyke.
But for Israel the ultimate implication of the masses entering politics, masses who are exceedingly anti-Zionist and increasingly anti-Semitic, is the closure of that window that existed while those regimes weren’t so decrepit and could actually have benefited, via the Arab peace plan for example, from an agreement with Israel as long as there was some kind of Palestinian state– that’s gone.
One of the things it means is that an Israeli, thinking about what we will get by ripping ourselves out of the West Bank and Gaza– what will we get? Will we get peace with the Arab world? Who can trust these regimes? Or, ff you trust the Arab spring, it means the masses will come into power. And those masses will want to wipe us away. So that reduces the incentive to negotiate a withdrawal. So the implications of the Arab spring which is more like probably an Arab century, a huge long geological shift that we’re looking at–
let’s not confine ourselves to a week by week pundit analysis of what these events mean.