Home > Politics > On Lybia and Egypt and the Arab Spring

On Lybia and Egypt and the Arab Spring

Ahh, the Arab Spring: A regional revelation; oppressed and discontented people utilizing social media to organize hasty but massive protests; rebel forces ousting dictatorial regimes in the name of free expression and representation. Go Democracy! Go America!

It didn’t take a genius, though, to see where this might go. An unstable, under-educated, fervently anti-American region of the world rising up at once to have their voices heard and take control of their own destinies. What might those voices say? When social media is utilized to spread an anti-Islamic video, blame America, and organize hasty but deadly attacks on U.S. embassies are we still so excited about freedom of expression in the Middle East?

When I arrived in Haiti two weeks after the earthquake, aid distribution was in a sorry state. Despite security provided by Marines and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, aid organizations were confronted with disorganized mobs whenever they arrived with handouts. Fearing for their safety and unsure of what to do to improve the situation, these organizations just pushed all of the aid supplies out of the backs of their trucks and drove off. The predictable result was that the whoever was strongest or best-armed–the gangs in this case–would hoard the supplies and leverage them against the people to enhance their power. While this situation was quickly and easily corrected through an information campaign and proper use of peaceful reward and punishment techniques (no aid if you’re disorderly; aid if you’re orderly), it was an excellent demonstration as to what can occur when a power vacuum is created at the top and people are left to fend for themselves.

American foreign policy seems to look a lot like the initial Haiti scenario. We are completely in support of creating power vacuums when dictators fall, but there is no plan or discipline implemented into filling those vacuums. Thus, the strongest, loudest, best-armed factions are in the best position to seize control and set the direction of new regimes. When this takes place in a region with interests and values vastly different from our own, the results can be detrimental. While we were quick to celebrate the spread of self-expression and the road to democracy in the Middle East, few brought up to downsides. After all, what do you get when you have a democracy without a well-educated populace and the rule of law? You get mob rule.

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