TV: “The Arab World’s Democracy Movement”

The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation’s July 2011 TV program examines the growing movement for democracy in northern Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf states, and throughout much of the Arab world. The movement really took off in early 2011 and is continuing up through our taping date in June 2011, so it has been referred to as the “Arab Spring.”

As usual, the mainstream news media and mainstream politicians have failed to understand or talk about some of the most important aspects of this, and they have described some aspects inaccurately, especially reflecting U.S. government bias, rather than understand the authenticity of the people themselves in those countries.

Our guest is Steve Niva. Steve Niva teaches International Politics and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He has written about U.S. Foreign Policy and the Middle East for Middle East Report magazine (www.merip.org), and his writings have appeared in many other respected periodicals. He writes especially about unconventional and asymmetrical warfare, and he is currently writing a book on Israeli military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

He recently spent almost 1½ months in Turkey and a few weeks in Lebanon, and he lectured at American University in Beirut, Lebanon.

I have hosted Steve Niva as a guest on this program a number of times because he is so knowledgeable about the issues, so insightful in analyzing them, and so clear in explaining them so our viewers will understand.

Our interview explores the factors leading to “the Arab Spring.” The factors are similar across many of the countries we discuss. Factors include but are not limited to longstanding oppression, corruption and repression of dissent; worsening economic realities and futures for the region’s young people; and yearning for democracy to replace autocratic governments.

We discuss the background, emerging realities, and prospects in Tunisia, where the “Arab spring” started, and in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.

The context for some of this new movement is longstanding US foreign policy, including oil and geopolitics. While the US government pays lip service to democracy, our nation’s track record of actual behavior contradicts that.

We discuss Iran, which used to be a democracy until the British and American governments overthrew it in the early 1950s and installed a brutal dictator, the shah.

We discuss who is behind the “democracy movement” and another player in the turmoil, the “radical Islamists.”

Is the democracy movement sustainable? What about Saudi Arabia and other conservative elements pushing back in a “counter-revolution”? Steve has thoughtful insights about this and about some interesting aspects of that region’s republican dictatorships vs. monarchies.

What are the implications for Israeli-Palestinian relations?

What are the implications for Pakistan and the “war on terror” (and Afghanistan and Iraq)?

What are the implications for US foreign policy overall?

Steve addresses these and offers his own recommendations.

The growing movement for democracy in North Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the Arab world are an important historical development. We watched history in the making, and the story continues to unfold.

Some historians have emphasized how people and nations respond to these and potential turning points. Responding wisely to a challenge can move us ahead. Responding poorly can set us back.

If we understand what is really happening – and if we value democracy more than raw military and political power – we can choose wisely and help democracy and human rights.  But if we focus selfishly on short-term U.S. geopolitical and military and economic interests, we will further alienate a large part of the world that we have already antagonized through decades of heavy-handed and militaristic policies.

We must choose. I hope we will choose wisely.

Even after the 2011’s movement for democracy across the region, this TV program remains informative and useful to understand that era, our current times, and the future.

To watch this highly informative, insightful interview, CLICK HERE.

To read about it, CLICK HERE.