China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Libya Rebels-UK, Algeria
China: The Communist Party-run Beijing Daily criticized anti-government protest movements in the Middle East and dismissed the possibility of similar happenings in China, the Associated Press reported 5 March.
Such movements bring nothing but chaos and misery to their countries’ citizens and are engineered by a small number of people using the Internet to organize illegal meetings, a font-page editorial stated, adding that the minority becomes a “self-delusional ruckus.” Chinese people support their nation’s political stability, economic development and favorable government policies, but there are always those with ulterior motives who may attempt to incite unrest, according to the editorial.
Comment: Students of revolutions know that one of the most “conservative” political phenomena is a successful revolution. The current Chinese leadership fears the very kind of movement that created the Peoples Republic. The leadership has replaced revolutionary zeal with balance sheets backed by a degree of general prosperity inconceivable throughout millennia of Chinese history.
The Communists never seemed to grasp, however, that personal well being and education, especially, are inherently antithetical to communism because they imply individual dignity and worth. This is one of several great contradictions that Mao struggled mightily with, but never found an answer. [See Also Gandhi to Mao]
Only a few states, all democracies, have the internal power and openness to rejuvenate themselves, i.e., to update their revolutions. All centrally-controlled political systems lack the mechanisms and the fire. That lack accounts for Qadhafi’s troubles, for one example.
Bahrain: Thousands of protesters gathered outside the office of Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, demanding his resignation and that of the royal family, al Jazeera reported 6 March.
Protesters massed at Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, where the Cabinet usually meets, and chanted anti-government slogans against King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Protesters also demanded that the 2002 constitution be dissolved as it gives too much power to the monarchy.
Comment: The leaders of the Gulf states seem to have concluded that they will permit no change in government systems; no overthrow of monarchies though Yemen can collapse. Theirs is an atavistic attitude towards the rights of citizens compared to the authority they arrogate to themselves.
The situation cannot last because it polarizes the country. It creates a compression scenario in which an explosion of violence becomes the only avenue for vindication of rights and simmering resentment if they fail. Arab kings are destined to become victims of their own national prosperity.
As with the Chinese, it is difficult for even benign dictatorships and monarchies to defend themselves against the people they decided to educate and make prosperous.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia plans to ban all protests and marches, the Interior Ministry stated 5 March on state television, adding that security forces would use “all measures” to keep public order, Reuters reported.
Comment: See the comment above.
Egypt: Update. Armed men in plain clothes threw bricks and improvised incendiary devices at protesters demanding reform of Egypt’s security services outside a police headquarters in Cairo on 6 March. Egyptian soldiers had earlier fired guns into the air to disperse the protesters, according to witnesses.
Mansur al-Issawi, Egypt’s new interior minister, took office 6 March, pledging to restore public confidence in the country’s police force after protesters stormed a number of security buildings. In his acceptance speech, al-Issawi also pledged to restore stability and security in the streets of Egypt.
Al-Issawi was named to his new post late 5 March and replaces Mahmoud Wagdy, who had been appointed at the end of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Comment: This looks a lot like Mubarak’s Egypt.
Libya: Situation summary. Open source reporting, especially US TV news, provides no basis for determining wins and losses over the weekend. Both sides claim victories.
What appears clear is that Qadhafi’s fighters tried to recover areas near Tripoli and to expand autonomous pockets they control outside Tripoli. Qadhafi’s supporters remain in Tripoli. Outside Tripoli pockets of pro-Qadhafi fighters appear to operate from military bases, where the use as safehavens after a string of consistently inconsequential counteroffensive operations.
The failure of the pro-Qadhafi fighters to take and hold ground is a testament to their ineptitude and Qadhafi’s pathetic management because the anti-Qadhafi forces lack any pretense to organization or military training. Supposedly trained and well armed fighters are making no progress against the disorganized zealots of the rebels.
The situation remains inconclusive, but the rebels must capture Tripoli and the Qadhafi family. The situation is starting to resemble the last days of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, in slow motion.
US TV news descriptions of fierce fighting border on hysterical exaggeration for dramatic effect. The fighting looks mostly like skirmishing. If the pro-Qadhafi fighters have artillery and armor, as claimed by the TV reporters, their inability to break through cordons of pickup trucks and sedans is difficult to explain. The impact of Libyan air power is hardly measurable except for one apparently lucky bomb that destroyed an ordnance depot in the Benghazi area.
Libyan Rebels-UK: Eight members of a British diplomatic “mission” who had been captured in Benghazi this weekend boarded the HMS Cumberland and have left the country, Al Jazeera reported March 6, citing opposition officials in the city. According to the officials, one of the detained individuals had in his possession advanced computer equipment, which will be displayed in the near future.
Comment: Other news sources report the British tried to make clandestine contact with the rebel council in Benghazi by inserting a team that included British commandos and intelligence people, all of whom got caught.
The speed of the release indicates the news report is a cover story. The group certainly made contact and made a deal, if only to get released. It is not even certain that the team was only eight people!
The interim Libyan rebel National Council expects to be formally recognized by several European and Arab countries, ex-Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who heads the council, stated to Al Jazeera on March 5, Reuters reported. The Council, based in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, named a three-member crisis committee to cover military and foreign affairs in a bid to streamline decision-making.
Algeria: Update. Algerian police banned political reform marches organized by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) and its dominant affiliate group the Gathering for Culture and Democracy (RCD), Xinhua reported March 5. Police banned marches organized in the Hussein Day and Ain Benian districts and Oran province near Algiers, RCD President Said Sadi stated.
The marches were banned to uphold public order in the capital and the decision has nothing to do with oppressing freedom of expression, authorities said.
Comment: The Bouteflika government apparently is following the Saudi lead.
General comment: The Arab leaders are out of imagination, touch and ideas. There will be more troubles.
Phi Beta Iota: The same is true of US leaders. Revolution 2.0 is already in the US, but taking a different form. Every major new idea now routes “around” the government and “around” traditional commerce. Both have lost any semblance of legitimacy, but instead of violently opposing them, the “new world order” is ignoring them. There is real elegance in that, what Tom Atlee calls Evolutionary Activism.