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Op-ed

Dictatorship Cycle in the Middle East

Laurelle Atkinson, April 24, 2011

"We will not see a military solution, but a political solution." German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle concluded at a recent conference on the Libyan crisis. While the direction to realize it is regionally apparent, the structural mechanisms remain subject to how democracies interact in the region as well as state constitutions. From international trade to how state security and interests are determined, our legislative infrastructure seems geared to the military redress of political crises.

Yemen personifies it. "In compliance with statements made several times ... the president has no reservation against transferring power peacefully and smoothly within the framework of the constitution," the statement from Yemen said. Sounds good, but Yemen along with its constitution has been embroiled in the intelligence network of America's al Qaeda war. Constitutional arrangements are yet to prevent military interventions in the Middle East. Revolutions, civil wars and their cycles of uprisings and military dictatorships are longstanding trends. Inter-faith rivalries have theocratic bases, while the Shi'a/Sunni divide is constitutionally mandated in states such as Lebanon to a geostrategic degree of secular machinations. Representative accountability isn't manifesting through these constitutions. Instead elections reflect empty obeisance to Western democracies courtesy of taxpayers, while Western democracies seek U.N. approval for military action on security needs in the Middle East, such as oil. Progressive governance doesn't apparently occur via current sovereign rights.

With such leverage a political solution is difficult to envisage on the region's conflicts, as the regional direction is systemically weak. But does it work both ways? The political strength of the region may well be subject to its aggregated authority, but the international system is increasingly subject to regional accord and the state's legislative ability to act within the broader systemic framework. Middle Eastern IGOs are now in the global spotlight, sought for a political resolve to the region's military morass. How can they live up to their standing principles?

 
Evidently the present nature of their aggregated authority is questionable. In response to the African Union ceasefire agreement on Libya, one council official said,"Gaddafi has bought all these guys". The Libyan leader has spent billions, it seems, supporting authoritarian African regimes. And Yemen seems no different. The coin is likely in the other hand with U.S. strategic aid, but just as the African Union agreement didn't specify Muammar el-Gaddafi's resignation, neither did the GCC initiative detail President Saleh's departure. The omissions raise many questions on sovereign rights and regional security as to the Islamic adherence these state heads profess. Maintaining office under such auspices casts dispersions upon the political application of universal principles in the Middle East. Without regional application, what is their true worth? Unilateral and local military forces tend to prevail when there's no regional direction of general political relevance, evidently.
 
Trends and defense regulation

 
"The U.N. resolutions do allow for the provision of weapons," Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Al Thani said on Libya. "But we're making our contribution through our own military, as well as providing non-lethal support, such as communications equipment." Empowering Libya's Transitional National Council, however, could involve more than military and communications hardware. According to the New York Times, Defense Secretary Robert Gates understands the dynamics of arming rebel forces from his C.I.A. days and the Taliban. They now comprise fighters he funnelled weapons to in the 80s for geostrategic purposes. Overcoming this dynamic then—entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan—could essentially be a political process of regional mechanisms for comprehensively preventing the supply of weapons.

Overcoming the dynamic means addressing these causes, and to date that hasn't happened. Given, defense industry carries an international imperative, and with the degree to which states rely on the industry these days, regional regulation wouldn't happen overnight either. Still, as the inadequacies of U.N. economic sanctions and resolutions on the Middle East show, causal regulation is a contingent process between the state, the region and the international system. As Libya's demands for weapons grow louder, this is happening alongside increasing Western demands for oil.
 
Process is the key. Step by step and state by state, forging the political direction of accord is ongoing through the process of determining collective security in terms of general sustainability. Why do conflicts keep erupting regardless of arms embargoes in our free-trading world of mega defense systems? Principles are illuminating and speeches are noble, but politically realizing their universal value of progressive evolution goes beyond warfare. Addressing the state—its defense, resources and security—as a regional entity within the world resonates into systemic understanding and legislative strength. And that amounts to a causal ongoing dynamic transcending the ceasefires of warfare.
 
Clearly Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC) is in no position to do that. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged Libya needs a political resolve. But while Gaddafi's ceasefires are proving worthless, since when has setting up regulatory mechanisms of defense industry and resource management been NATO procedure in war zones? It's probably the biggest task the world's mega military industrial complex and oil user faces, especially with the Israeli defense industry strategically in tow. Nevertheless, NATO is the northern hemisphere's primary security force, and the United States is the world's leading democracy with the ostensible expertise to take statehood out of geostrategic warfare into global trans-border constitutional relevance. Arming the TNC doesn't form the foundations to that end. Not only is it fuelling the fires of civil wars, but also blocking progressive political rationale. They'd be too busy firing rockets to think otherwise.
 
Already the rationale of military assistance at base level is snowballing into state policies of regional relevance. Tehran mirrors the tendency to address the region's uprisings in geostrategic terms. According to Payvand News, that's along the lines of the 1979 Islamic Revolution against U.S.-backed governments. Little wonder rumors are rife that Iranian defense industry is in overdrive arming every Shi'ite from Hezbollah to kingdom come in the uprisings. It's the same old story of sectarian suspicions, Arab/Persian rivalry and national insecurity, none of which is doing democracy's international standing any favors. And all of which democracies can now overcome via systemic regulation on defense and oil use in the Middle East.
 
Meanwhile the annual dust storms are descending on the region's Fertile Crescent, increasing in strength as desertification spreads over the terrain's dried-up ponds and waterways. And although states such as Iran and Iraq signed agreements on addressing the environmental impacts of excessive industrialization and warfare, like Colonel Gaddafi's ceasefires they too are proving worthless. When the storms are so bad breathing is impossible and eyesight a distant memory, maybe then the desire for weapons and fighting in the Middle East will decline. Only, maybe then it's too late.

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