Monday, January 17, 2011

Tunisia And The Lessons Of The Iranian Revolution | The New Republic

Tunisia And The Lessons Of The Iranian Revolution | The New Republic

I remember Carter bungling a response to the Iranian revolution. Let's hope Obama's more deft.

Khairi Abaza writes,
And so, just like Iran in 1979, Tunisia now finds itself at a crossroads: Will it head down the path of democracy, or will there be a takeover by Islamists? In 1979, Europe and the United States missed an opportunity to stand with liberals at the time of the Shah’s overthrow, leaving them at the mercy of the Islamists. Now, the West must avoid repeating this mistake in Tunisia by clearly identifying with the liberals, and their demands for democracy and better governance.

The worst thing the West could do would be to support a cosmetic change in which another authoritarian figure replaces Ben Ali and makes only small concessions to ease popular discontent—granting the people some new liberties, while maintaining the authoritarian structures of the state. Such a move would signal to the Tunisian people that the West is not actually interested in promoting democracy in Tunisia, and would likely set the stage for the Islamists and their international sponsors to emerge as the strongest opposition. In the end, Tunisia would likely fall to the Islamists, another form of authoritarianism.

Some in the West have long argued that because of the lack of a viable liberal alternative, supporting authoritarian regimes in Arab countries is the only political choice against the Islamists. Now, in Tunisia, as people flood into the streets demanding democracy, we see that this is not the case. It was not the case in Iran in 1979 either, but the West was so invested in the Shah that it failed to strongly back the liberal opposition. We don’t have to repeat that error today.

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