Moving From the Bottom Up and Back Down Again

24 september 2011

The Arab Spring and the Global International System

Vitaly Naumkin, Ph.D. in History, is a Professor and Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is also head of the Department of Regional Problems at Moscow State University, President of the Center for Strategic and Political Research, and Editor-in-Chief of the Vostok-ORIENS magazine published by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Resume: Many analysts believe the dramatic changes that the global international system is undergoing now are a continuation of a long-term reconfiguration of the world that started back in the 1980s.

Many analysts believe the dramatic changes that the global international system is undergoing now are a continuation of a long-term reconfiguration of the world that started back in the 1980s. The process is spreading along a top-down pattern and gradually embracing increasingly more regions. However, it is highly likely that there are also changes working along the bottom-up model and influencing the entire global international system, which is manifest in the turbulent events occurring in various places.

The global international system is going through a period of transformation, specifically through the shifting of global power to Asia. Equally obvious is the process of divergence or, in other words, a greater diversity that makes the world polycentric. Another characteristic feature of the evolution of the 2011 global international system is uncertainty. One of the main agents of the ongoing change at both the regional and global levels is the Arab Spring, which has swept away some regimes in the Middle East that looked permanent and has dramatically weakened others.

DIVERSE ACTIVITY OF ARAB SOCIETIES

Different cliched terms are used to describe the Arab Spring, including revolution, revolt, political tsunami, uprising, coup, Facebook youth movement and even civil war. This variance of terms reflects not only the confusion, but also the heterogeneous controversial reality behind the process of profound changes as a result of the inner transformation of Arab communities, each of which is similar to and different from all the others. The process is still in the initial phase and its progress and outcome are difficult to predict. However, there are already enough grounds for an early understanding in the context of the evolution of the global system of international relations, which forms the core of the global international system, and further shifts in the balance of forces and rules of the game in world politics.

The Arab Spring encompasses elements from history and new experience unusual for the region. The novelty lies in the spontaneous secular mass movement of young people, mostly educated and liberal, which was not instigated by external influences. This was especially evident in Egypt and Tunisia. At the same time, a few similarities are not a basis for equating what happened in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries. In some cases it was the revolutionary movement of the youth and middle class, in other situations it was the activity of insurgent tribes, and in still other cases it was a revolt of a religious section, etc.

Nonetheless, these new kinds of mass protest movements have been largely generated by social and socio-economic causes: unemployment, skyrocketing prices, corruption, inequality, nepotism and the decades-long domination of the ruling elites. These elites had occupied the upper section of society and had deprived the youth of an opportunity for self-fulfillment and advancement even in small and medium-sized businesses stifled by red tape. There are also political causes: the lack of political representation, an archaic system of governance, the adjustability of the system to the interests of the very same elites, as they monopolize access to state power and resources, and tough authoritarianism depriving the people of the chance to defend their own interests through legitimate means. In each case there is a tyrant who has ruled a country for decades and has accumulated immense resources.

These new movements had a network, but did not have a clear organizational structure, united leadership, programs or plans of action. The revolting masses had simple demands – improving living standards, creating jobs, removing from power long-term dictators with their clans, families and closest associates, and reforming the institutions they controlled (governments, parliaments, parties and top echelons of the forces of law and order). These demands had a clear political nature from the very start, or else they were economic demands that had quickly transformed into political ones.

Along with this there were traditional causes too, albeit specific in each country. In Libya’s case there was conflict between the eastern province of Cyrenaica and the western province of Tripolitania (and to a lesser extent the southwest Fezzan-Ghadames), and between different tribes. Yemen was known for a long-smoldering conflict between the South and the North and the southerners’ discontent over discrimination on the part of the ruling regime, as well as friction between the tribal elites and the contention of tribes. Bahrain, for one, displayed an obvious discontent of the Shiite majority with the ruling Sunni regime. All of the Arab states regardless of their political structure had a very high level of personification. One of the causes of the uprisings was that rulers who had stayed too long in power and who had lost the people’s trust first could no longer rule their countries efficiently, and then state power fell from their grasp. This happened largely because of the unwillingness of a considerable number of state agencies (in Tunisia and Egypt it was the armed forces) to rise to their defense.

It is important to stress in this context the full groundlessness of two conspiracy theories that are easily discernable in the declarations of some Russian analysts who have attempted to explain the Arab Spring phenomenon.

The first theory posits that the events were instigated and steered by some Western (primarily U.S.) quarters through Internet resources (Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and were thus comparable to the “flower revolutions” that took place in several territories of the former Soviet Union. For instance, political scientist Sergei Kurginian claimed that “it is improbable to see people in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Syria take to the streets en masse all at once just like that.” But either the author does not understand the situation in the region or else he is intentionally juggling facts (since the dates and countries are purposefully mixed up here) just to have another pretext to accuse the Americans who, believe it or not, ostensibly conjured everything up quite some time ago in precisely the way it happened. The thousands-strong crowds of educated young Arabs were simply manipulated by U.S. puppeteers and they themselves were guided by the arm of “the very same Brzezinski” who had been toiling for years over a project of “profound partnership between the U.S. and radical Islam.” These kinds of arguments could only be heard earlier from far-right circles in Israel (incidentally, Kurginian claims that Israel remains virtually the sole “obstacle in the way of the U.S. reunion with Islamic radicals”).

There is no denying that U.S. communication and networking “public diplomacy,” which disseminates certain values, did influence some young Arabs. Researcher Natalya Tsvetkova notes quite correctly that “public diplomacy did not pursue the goal of kicking off revolutions in the Arab world. Instead, they appeared to be an unscheduled product of U.S. public diplomacy and the popularity of network contacts.”

Another theory suggests that all the protest movements were organized and guided by fundamentalist Islamic quarters. These claims were consonant with Gaddafi’s escapades when he tried to apportion all blame for the bloodshed in his country to the Islamists. Dr. Yevgeny Satanovsky, whom I debated on a television program, remarked that there is always “a grim bearded guy in a turban with a Kalashnikov” standing at the end of the tunnel in all such revolutions anyway. In other words, even if Islamic fundamentalists are not the ones manipulating the new Arab political scene today, they will still use the fruits of victory achieved by mass protesters. No arguments are provided for this. Moreover, the reality is such that other players have seized the initiative of the protests from the Islamic fundamentalists, who, incidentally, are far from a monolith force.

With some Russian scholars the two theories have fused into one. Kurginian claims, for instance, that “Islamic fundamentalism represents a separate religious subculture brewed under immediate Western supervision.” He asserts that the Society of the Muslim Brothers is a “British project.” Moreover, Barack Obama is allegedly guilty of stretching out a hand of friendship to the Islamic world in his famous Cairo speech. It seems that a profound misunderstanding between the West and the Islamic community is not splitting the modern world.

It is worth noting that verbal assaults on Islami? movements will not likely bring any dividends to Russia, while the Muslim Brotherhood is turning into a powerful political force in Egypt – like it did earlier in Jordan – with the aid of its Freedom and Justice Party. Much the same can be said about its sister movements, such as the Islah party in Yemen and Hamas in Palestine. The U.S. administration, which was initially hesitant, but later supported the Egyptian uprising, apparently scored points by winning over the hearts of those who may rule that country tomorrow. Simultaneously, it has kept the trust of the Egyptian military establishment, its traditional supporter.

In reality, the developments caught the West, as well as national and trans-national Islamic movements, by surprise. Apart from the accumulation of prerequisites for an upsurge of activism and the synergy of traditional and new mechanisms of mobilization, each particular case revealed the presence of its own explosive triggers. For instance, Tunisian youth rushed to the streets after an act of self-immolation committed by a young man who had grown tired of fighting with corrupt bureaucratic machinery. The tough repression of school students by law enforcement forces in Deraa played the same role in Syria.

Instruments of mobilization and forms of social and political protest have become the common features of social and political activism in different countries. Amid this background the role of the Internet and information networks is greatly overstated because they have not yet spread widely across the Arab world. Far more traditional mechanisms played an equal role to Twitter and Facebook. The thousands of women with their faces hidden under niqab veils who protested on the streets in Yemen have hardly ever heard about this technology. In the first place, there was a consolidation of protesting masses of people gathering for Friday prayers at mosques and Friday sermons as such. However, this does not mean that Islamic clerics played any sort of leading role.

 

THE THREE ARAB CRISES

The Arab Spring has revealed one more important feature that could be understood if we take an overview of the events that I call “a third Arab crisis.” Let us take a retrospective look at the events that took place during the last two decades, i.e. in the 1990s and the 2000s. In all the three crises, the factor of armed violence involving global actors played a decisive role. I do not mean here the cases that involved local or regional actors only like, for instance, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its war on Hezbollah in 2006.

“The first Arab crisis” in 1990 and the beginning of 1991 coincided with the collapse of bipolarity. Saddam Hussein did not realize the latter fact when he decided to attack Kuwait in spite of Baghdad’s own weakness after a protracted and tiresome war with Iran. A U.S.-led international coalition launched Desert Storm, which signaled a rehabilitation of the use of force as an instrument for resolving international problems. The author of this article wrote about this at the time. This rehabilitation showed a clear discrepancy with Mikhail Gorbachev’s philosophy of a “new political mentality” (or, in other words, a world without violence), which was still popular in Russia at that time, but is hardly remembered now. That virtually Gandhian philosophy was like a hand stretched out to the West and the whole world, but it was painfully slapped soon enough, however. Iraqi troops were driven out of Kuwait efficaciously, partly due to the emergence of an unprecedented regional and global consensus. Let us recall that Arab countries as different as Egypt and Syria sided with the U.S. then, to say nothing of political support on the part of Iran.

“The second Arab crisis” in 2003 erupted after the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the ensuing U.S.-led global war against terrorism involving the invasion of Afghanistan that had been endorsed by the international community. Like the first Arab crisis, this one, too, was linked to Iraq, although in this case even U.S. allies in NATO – like France and Germany – spoke out against an armed invasion. Russia and the regional powers did not approve of it either (even though, paradoxically, the U.S. actions stood in perfect accordance with Iran’s interests this time too. They helped Iran gain its status as an extremely influential country in that part of the world). One way or another, the groundwork for a new interventionism was laid down and U.S. President George W. Bush, who relied on a potent group of neo-cons, decided to act unilaterally, without taking account of the opinion of his allies or a considerable part of the U.S. public. He effectively broke with the concept of containment (applied to the Soviet Union at the time) that had been formulated by George Kennan and replaced it with what Ian Shapiro called “a doctrine of dominant unilateralism and pre-emptive strikes.”

The second Arab crisis brought about the mishap of a zero-sum game that partially reproduced the paradigm characteristic of the bipolar world era. The anti-interventionist quasi-bloc encompassed otherwise totally different countries (including NATO member-states) that had assumed this stance for a variety of reasons. The operation’s objectives were regime change and two unfounded charges were leveled against Saddam to justify the invasion – the possession of nuclear weapons and support for Al Qaeda. These were the new elements in the actions of the U.S. and associate nations.

Change of power as a strategy was not a novel phenomenon, of course. However, in the past it was implemented largely with the aid of security service operations relying on local allies rather than through large-scale military action. This was how the leaders of Iran and Guatemala had been ousted and how attempts had been made to remove Gamal Abdel Nasser and Fidel Castro.

However, the two charges against Saddam soon gave way to a new one – the importance of installing democracy in Iraq. In any case, there was illegitimate violence (as part of forcible democratization through violent regime change in the latter case) and the second Arab crisis already showed signs of the divergence mentioned above.

 

THE SPECIFIC FEATURES OF THE THIRD ARAB CRISIS

The third Arab crisis took shape under the influence of the Arab Spring during the course of events in Libya, which erupted amid the speedy removal from power of the Tunisian and Egyptian leaders by “angry young men.” Barack Obama, who parted with the doctrine of unilateralism and was apparently unwilling to get mired any deeper in the Middle East, somehow became fascinated with the prospect of fitting Libya into the “North Africa democracy belt” and contributed to having the UN Security Council adopt a resolution on a no-fly zone. However, this time the main agent of neo-interventionist action was French President Nicolas Sarkozy supported by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Sarkozy called on foreign policy activism to resolve domestic political tasks, including a pre-election competition with other political parties and the desire to ward off accusations of maintaining too close and far from disinterested cooperation with dictators. The change-of-regime strategy endured a re-branding and was embedded in the paradigm of humanitarian intervention. A crucial factor that made the operation possible was the Arab League’s legitimization of the intervention, especially by a group of Arab regimes with Qatar in the lead. It appeared that Muammar Gaddafi had no faithful associates or friends in the international community at all.

A group of influential global and regional actors emerged as the third crisis continued. BRIC countries were joined by South Africa and NATO member-states such as Germany, Turkey and others. While withholding support for a no-fly zone, they did not put up obstacles to it either. When the coalition’s actions started stretching beyond the boundaries of UN Security Council resolution No. 1973 – and it was easy to predict they would some day – this group came out with criticism. The Organization of African States (OAS) put forward an alternative project and Tehran, which detests any Western interventionism, spoke up against Gaddafi almost as vehemently as the U.S. However, Iran wants to see a repeat of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the Libyan protests.

Incidentally, the events have shown Iran’s reluctance to accept high risks even in situations affecting its ideological interests. A Western diplomat said the Iranian leadership was humiliated when it proved unable (or rather, when it prudently decided not) to lend a helping hand to fellow-Shiites in Bahrain.

 

SOME HISTORICAL PARALLELS

Is the impact of regional change on the global international system along the bottom-up pattern a phenomenon characteristic of our times or can similar instances be found in the recent history of the Middle East too?

The Middle Eastern regional subsystem took shape as a component of the bipolar world’s global international system after World War II. The rules of the zero-sum game dictated the type of conduct by global actors in the regional arena where the balance of forces hinged on the lines of disengagement typical of that era.

However, even then the internal configuration of the system was far from always subjugated to the rules of the game imposed by two superpowers and their allies. Leaders of third world states even tried, quite successfully at times, to manipulate the superpowers in their own interests. Moreover, elements of divergence appeared in conditions of bipolarity too. Among its causes one can cite the differences in attitudes towards colonialism and towards the use of force that existed in the U.S. and among its European allies, who together counteracted the “Communist threat.”

Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and especially Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett first applauded the July 1952 anti-monarchical revolution in Egypt. Let us note that the Soviet Union, which was oriented entirely towards supporting Arab communists at the time, offered a hostile response to those changes. In turn, the Israeli leaders regarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration as hostile to Israel, and not without reason. It was not accidental therefore that Ben Gurion rejected the first U.S.-British peace plan, the so-called Alpha peace plan.

Generally speaking, a viewpoint has taken root in Russian publications that the U.S. authorities have always given unequivocal support to Israel, yet this is untenable in the historical sense. There was a time when the U.S. military strategists even considered military action against Israel in case the latter took uncoordinated steps fraught with breaking up the balance of forces and interests in the region.

The Suez crisis in 1956 also revealed a divergence not typical of the Cold War. In an attempt to restore control over the Suez Canal, nationalized by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Britain and France teamed up with Israel, which pursued its own interests, and effectuated an armed invasion of Egypt. The Soviet Union resolutely opposed this action, while the U.S. took a stance that was closer to the Soviet position than the British one. The fact that the Americans did not want to participate directly in combat could be explained by their eagerness to win over to their side the new nationalistic leaders, whom they viewed as potential allies in the efforts to neutralize Communism.

The Eisenhower Doctrine, proclaimed on January 5, 1957, de facto preordained the possible use of U.S. military force for promulgating ideological and political objectives. Apart from economic and military assistance, it mentioned “the employment of the armed forces of the United States to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid, against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism.” The doctrine did not pertain to Israel at first, but this changed with the onslaught of the 1958 crisis that witnessed Israel’s efforts to demonize Syria where the Baath party was playing an ever-increasing role. It was partly because of this that U.S. policy became more pro-Israeli in the summer of 1957. Washington had come to a conclusion that Damascus was turning more and more towards Moscow. The CIA made an unsuccessful attempt to oust the Syrian government in August 1957 and Ben Gurion made a statement in support of the U.S.

The creation of the United Arab Republic in February 1958 came as the first (and, eventually, the last) attempt to implement Nasser’s nationalistic doctrine of Arab unity, which strongly intensified the fears of Western and Israeli leaders. Their apprehensions were further fuelled by the anti-monarchic revolution under the leadership of Abdul Karim Qasim in Baghdad, the center of an anti-Soviet bloc structure.

Richard Nixon, the then Vice-President of the U.S., insisted on an immediate military invasion of Iraq and even demanded removal of those U.S. ambassadors who objected to the idea. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles disapproved of the plan and reminded Nixon of the inglorious finale of the Suez adventure for the British (he spoke openly about the importance of the U.S. distancing itself from European colonialism). Although Eisenhower did not share the panicky moods of Sir Winston Churchill, who claimed that the entire Middle East might soon fall into the Soviet realm unless the West took resolute action, he too feared a revolutionary domino effect similar to the one that had taken place in Southeast Asia.

Two years after the Suez crisis, the U.S. and Britain were acting together again and discussing plans of possible intervention. Unlike British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Eisenhower did not show resolve to resort to military force, all the more so because his doctrine did not automatically imply the use of troops for the overthrow of Communist or left-wing regimes.

The international crisis around Iraq in 1958 was far more serious than even recently thought. The Soviet Union issued sharply-worded, menacing statements regarding Anglo-American intervention, but serious disagreements flared up within the Soviet leadership itself as it discussed the issue.

Marshal Kliment Voroshilov echoed the apprehensions of the military at Politburo meetings by criticizing the implementation of Soviet policy in the Middle East. He said in part that the frequent voicing of threats against the West voided them of any value. Voroshilov believed that the active support of “progressive forces” in the Middle East might have disastrous consequences for the Soviet Union and could lead to a war with the U.S. Other members of the Politburo did not want a war either, yet they believed that permanent threats against the U.S. would be the best way to avoid war. Nikita Khrushchev upheld this position, while Anastas Mikoyan believed that the Americans were still pondering the chances for intervention in Iraq. He surmised that the actual U.S. decision would depend on the Soviet Union’s readiness to rise to the defense of that country.

In contrast, Voroshilov claimed that the West had already decided to intervene and the Soviet Union should not take the risk, or else it would be drawn into an overt conflict with the U.S. Thus one can conclude that a clash between the two great powers over Iraq was quite probable. The Soviet leaders decided to render military assistance to Baghdad, and weapons and defense equipment were delivered to Iraq with Egypt’s aid. At the same time, Moscow reacted calmly to the dispatching of U.S. troops to Lebanon and British troops to Jordan.

After the intervention problem was over, the Western powers had a difficult time seeking consensus on recognizing Iraq. While Britain believed this was to be done without delay so as to avoid Iraq’s drift towards the Soviet Union, the U.S. was reluctant to hurry in order to not offend the leaders of Iran and Turkey.

Khrushchev summed up the recognition of Iraq by the West as a political victory of the Soviet offensive strategy. He believed that the West had sought to overthrow the Iraqi regime, but had to retreat under powerful Soviet pressure. Thus strong political pressure was the only language that the Soviet Union’s Western contenders could reckon with, he thought. It was partly because of this that the Soviet leader acted resolutely (fortunately, not to the bitter end) during the Cuban Missile Crisis, of which the Iraqi crisis of 1958 was a precursor.

The configuration of the Middle Eastern regional subsystem of the global international system and the balance of forces in it took final shape only in the 1970s. However, after the collapse of bipolarity the Arab countries and the entire Middle East have been living through a period of painful adjustment to the dynamically changing world. U.S. researcher of international policy, Seyom Brown, who coined the term ‘polyarchy’ spoke about the process quite strongly. He wrote: “The structure of world politics evolving since the end of the Cold War still features the global hegemony of the United States (not unipolarity); but U.S. hegemony is embedded increasingly within a polyarchic field of actors: nation-states, terrorist networks, subnational groups, transnational religions, multinational enterprises, global and regional economic and security institutions. These communities and organizations are often in intense competition for resources, support and loyalty of their constituents, many of whom are members of the various competing entities at the same time.”

Specialists have been talking about the ripening of serious changes in the Middle Eastern subsystem of the global international system for quite some time now. Shortly before the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said that the region had broken down. The reality, however, is that if the Middle East has indeed broken down on its own, it has started breaking up other regions at the same time and exerting a growing influence on the world order. But if Salem had in mind that the structures and the balance of forces, which had taken shape there by the end of the 1970s and had been transformed with the start of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, did not exist anymore, then his assertion is not far from the truth.

By summing up what was said earlier, it should be noted that the Arab Spring was predestined by an entire series of developments after World War II and especially in the 21st century. Furthermore, the influence of changes in the Arab Middle East on the global international system does not have anything drastically new in it.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES AND POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

In contrast to climatic spring, the Arab Spring did not end with the beginning of summer. The main difficulty in predicting its consequences is the lack of clarity about the layout of new regimes in Arab countries affected by popular unrest. One can consider three possible scenarios here:

  • a democratic regime;
  • an Islamic regime;
  • a new and quite possibly military dictatorship.

Theoretically, there is a fourth scenario, albeit rather improbable but not entirely impossible, that implies uncontrollability and chaos.

We need to scrutinize the fact that the Arab monarchies have in all evidence withstood the onslaught of protest-motivated activism, which simultaneously victimized Arab republics with democratic institutions that are rather formal and are strictly controlled by the authoritarian regimes. The essence of the matter is larger than the financial and economic capabilities of the monarchies, as they differ from one place to another. The factor of legitimacy plays a tangible role in this case. A full-fledged monarchical regime has more legitimacy than a republic that does not hold democratic elections, which legitimize state power. Along with this, some monarchical regimes are less authoritarian than republics ruled by dictators.

Another obvious result is the unprecedented strengthening of two countries located on the outskirts of the Middle East – Iran and especially Turkey. Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose enlightened Justice and Development Party was once again reelected on June 12, 2011, wants to unite Islamic and European values and has scored significant successes in economic development. It is often said that Turkey is turning into a model for countries like Tunisia and particularly Egypt. At the same time, the new elites there have undertaken a thorough scrutiny of the post-Communist experience of Central European and East European countries.

One more country, Israel, has conclusively established itself as a dominant military power, but the critical situation in the Middle East conflict voids this advantage of value in many ways. The world community has failed to assess in full the recent rehearsals, including a test by the Syrians of a peaceful assault against the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (a similar attempt was made from Lebanese territory). One of the top leaders in the Palestinian resistance movement told the author of this article that the Palestinians can mobilize up to 500,000 people if they find it necessary to stage a peaceful breakthrough march. These “angry young men” will not even be armed with sticks or stones, as they are not supposed to commit acts of violence against the Israelis.

A peaceful march of this type contains nothing innovative. Yossi Alpher, a well-known Israeli political expert and a former officer of military intelligence who later took a high-ranking position in Mossad, told the author on one occasion that in 1950, after the first Arab-Israeli war, the Palestinian refugees were planning a mass crossing of the Israeli state border to return to their homes. When Alpher asked what should be done, his boss, General Aharon Yariv, who would later become an ardent proponent of reconciliation with the Palestinians, said he would have to open fire in that case. However, the march did not take place.

Quite unexpectedly for the West democratic revolutions have swept the Arab world, a region the West thought would never change and where it had long buried the idea of exporting democracy. The educated and liberal youth became the main actors in the events in Tunisia and Egypt. The West interprets the results as its own victory and something that has reaffirmed the attractiveness of liberal democratic values, which previously caused resentment in the East, and the Western model of society on the whole. It has started allocating sizeable, albeit insufficient, resources to support Arab countries where democratic regimes might take root. The U.S. understands that these regimes may show strong anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment in their policies. In addition, Islamic political forces will have to play a crucial role in these transforming societies, although no one will venture to predict the degree of that influence even for the short term.

The considerable rise of the Islamic factor embodies one more vector of influence of the events in the Arab world on the transformation of the global international system. Naturally, this will have an immediate impact on European Union countries, as it will fuel additional migration from the Middle East and North Africa. Immigration is already a serious problem for Europe, since it is transforming well-shaped European institutions such as the Schengen zone and the overall atmosphere of European politics. It is enough to take a look at the results of elections in one EU country after another where the demand for populist anti-immigrant parties is growing.

It cannot be ruled out that a kind of dichotomy between traditional authoritarian monarchies and new democratic regimes espousing values close to Western ones, although not always friendly to them, will appear in the Arab world if this scenario is enacted. There will likely be a showdown between two development tendencies. One of them is secularism with an Islamic face; the other is Islamic clericalism (if you tentatively extrapolate to Islam the notion that was initially linked to Catholicism, but which has become quite universal).

The 2011 global international system has not only demonstrated its unpreparedness to promptly react to changes that no one could have predicted, but on top of that there is its insufficient governability. Given the conditions of increasing divergence and uncertainty, common claims about the formation of a “global government” comprising leading international players are utopian. The use of military force, including in the form that has not received a mandate from international institutions (let us leave out here the interventionist but internationally sanctioned use of force by regional countries and primarily by Saudi Arabia in Bahrain), did not disappear into the past after the George W. Bush administration had bowed out. Today more than ever unconventional threats to international security, such as religious extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking and the possibility of new regional outbursts of instability, remain quite pressing.

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