Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Tunisian Revolt and American Non-Interventionism

Daniel Larison argues "that Tunisia’s uprising is not very useful ideologically or strategically for most Americans" — Why So Little Interest in the Tunisian Revolt? Americans have very little reason for interest in this revolt and the country, which is what makes Mr. Larison's analysis ao interesting:
    The Tunisian uprising doesn’t fit the neat schemes that have been applied to various “people power” movements in the last ten years. It also tends to blunt Western outrage towards authoritarian governments elsewhere in the world that one of the bloodiest crackdowns on protesters in recent years has come at the hands of a pro-Western client government, so it might be that many of the pro-Green enthusiasts are just trying to avoid the entire subject. In a related way, the excesses and foolishness of a lot of pro-Green enthusiasts and the subsequent faltering of the Green movement may have left Western observers chastened enough that they were unwilling to say anything about the Tunisian protesters for fear of being made to look foolish again.

    If you are strongly committed to the idea that the only alternative to Arab authoritarian regimes is Islamist radicalism, Tunisia creates a problem for you. If you believe that Westerners’ actively promoting political reform in the Arab world is the only way that it will ever happen, the Tunisians seem to have just proved you wrong. If you have spent the last two years berating the Obama administration for neglecting democracy promotion, Tunisia offers something of a rebuke that U.S. advocacy or lack of advocacy has any impact on the internal politics of authoritarian states. Put another way, more significant internal political change has taken place in an Arab country during the first half of one term of the “negligent” Obama administration than occurred during the entire Bush administration. This is purely coincidence, and has nothing to do with Obama, but it makes a mockery of all those who have tried to pin the crackdowns elsewhere around on the world on Obama’s supposed indifference.

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