Sunday, February 20, 2011

Common Thread to Middle East Protests: Young, Connected Populations

There have been a lot of uninformed commentaries on the cause of the various uprisings in the Middle East, especially among the neo-cons who have become hysterical about a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the Middle East and then the world.

The fact is that the situations in the countries experiencing protests in the middle east are all very different.

1.) Tunisia is a relatively wealthy country. The protests there are very similar to what happened in Chile and many Southeast Asian countries in the 80s and 90s -- people who got some amount of economic freedom finally demanded political freedom as well.

2.) Egypt is very poor and corrupt. Young people decided not to take it any more. Sure, the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in the protests, but they didn't start it or lead it. In the end, I suspect that Egypt's military will behave a lot like Turkey's military and not allow a theocratic state to emerge in there.

3.) Bahrain is also a wealthy country. It has a population that is 2/3rds Shiite being ruled by a Sunni minority. The Shiites see a fundamental unfairness and have finally have decided to do something about it.

4.) Iran is run by religious tyrants. The young people don't like it. Prior to America invading Iraq, the young people in Iran were electing reformist governments. The Iraq war enabled the clerics to whip up mistrust of America in Iran, warning that we were secretly plotting to install the Shah's son as ruler. Those type of scare tactics are no longer working.

The common thread running across all of these countries is that their populations are very young. They are restless. They are also on social media like Facebook and Twitter. So they understand more about the outside world than ever before.

Having direct contact with free people in North America and Europe is a catalyst for all of this discontent.

The neo-cons have it exactly wrong. The young people in the middle east don’t hate our freedom. They envy it. They see the freedom that we have and it causes them to be furious with their own governments for denying it to them. This is a good thing.

This is why cutting off trade and restricting travel is exactly the wrong policy when dealing with tyrants. We need to encourage more contact between Westerners and the oppressed peoples of the world. Yes, this even includes Cuba. Once they see what we have, they won’t stay silent any longer.

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