The triumphalism in the US surrounding the liquidation of Qadaffi may be short lived. That is because most Americans do not appreciate how the legacy of anti-colonialism shapes the contemporary cultural DNA in North Africa or how influential that legacy has been in shaping the revolts of what is now called the Arab Spring. There is more going on in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya than Jefferson’s vision of revolution fertilizing the natural rights of man.
The coming elections in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya may well result in victories or strong showings for the Islamic parties in each nation’s politics. The U.S., U.K., France, and Italy will not like such results, should they occur, and may will be tempted to intervene to contain or reverse them by influencing the elections either before the fact or overturning them after the fact. Further intervention would be certain to produce yet more unpleasant blowback.
As Peter Osborne argues below, before doing anything, we would do well to remember what happened to Algeria after the 1991-2 election and leave well enough alone. In what is widely regarded to have been a free and fair election, the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut or FIS) won a stunning victory in Dec 1991 on the first ballot, just short of an outright majority. It was clear that the FIS would win a majority on the second ballot scheduled for Jan 1992, and perhaps even enough votes to amend the Algerian constitution. The Algerian army, aided (incited?) by France and the CIA, intervened to cancel the second ballot. The cancellation triggered a chain of events leading to a nightmarish civil war that ultimately killed over 100,000 people and left a state that is still ripe for revolution.
We may not like the consequences of elections in North Africa – but we must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
By Peter Oborne, Telegraph, 22 Oct 2011
The extra-judicial execution of Colonel Gaddafi has been greeted with international elation, and understandably so. There was very little to be said in favour of that gnarled torturer and war criminal. Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, who masterminded the campaign against him, have some excuse to take the view that with the killing of Gaddafi, and today’s elections in Tunisia, the Arab Spring appears to be entering a hopeful stage.
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