A nuanced analysis of the factors leading to revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Cole (History/Univ. of Michigan; Engaging the Muslim World, 2009, etc.) finds that the uprisings by the people of these three nations against their oppressive rulers share important similarities that contributed to their success—unlike in the doomed scenario in Syria. All had a majority of disaffected, mostly unemployed young people, left-leaning youth living in towns or cities who had absorbed important lessons from the previous generation’s anti-American, Leninist, hierarchical ways. Most of the members of “Arab Gen Y” were unmarried, literate and nonreligious; some had worked outside of their countries, and all were intimately savvy about the Internet (chat room and forums) and the ways around their countries’ censorship. These young people were able to use the Internet to consolidate lateral alliances of “political breadth and flexibility”—e.g., creating new spaces and blogs to air incidences of police brutality. The Gaza War of 2008-2009 radicalized many youth, while the economic downturn of 2008 forced the “idling” of young workers. Moreover, the prospect of the ruling dynasties establishing “republican monarchies” (grooming sons or sons-in-law for succession) with no true sovereign legitimacy betrayed the 1950s revolutions that had won their countries’ independence from imperial powers. With the Internet to open their eyes, writes Cole, “the gap between rhetoric and reality was all the easier for the millennials to see.” The youth declared “Kefaya!” (enough), which became the Egyptian rallying cry. In Egypt and Tunisia, the military sided with the popular uprising, while in Libya, the international community stepped in. Cole argues that in these three instances, revolutions met with success due to the fact that they fundamentally altered who controlled the wealth in those countries.
An elegant, carefully delineated synthesis of the complicated, intertwined facets of the Arab uprisings.