Thomas Friedman’s article in the N.Y.T. (May 14, 2011) titled “I am a Man” is an excellent and analytical description of Arab uprising. Mr. Friedman observed a Libyan protestor’s sign that said “Ana rajul”, which translates to “I am a Man”. From Mr. Friedman’s point of view, the uprisings in the Arab world are the result of Arab regimes’ authoritarian rules, which has caused the suppression of their people and deprived the people of their basic democratic rights. He is correct when he points out that the people have been stripped of their dignity and self-respect. The people were not allowed to develop their full potential and were regressing while the world around them was progressing. The Arab world is viewed as the least developed by comparison to other regions around the globe.
Suddenly, the younger generation in the Arab world has realized how backwards their region is, and this led them to feel humiliated. Mr. Friedman is totally correct when he points out that the Arab protestors are demanding to regain their dignity, values, freedom and aspirations, like other people around the world.
It is regretful to say that Mr. Friedman only referred to authoritarian rules of Arab regimes as the major reasons behind the Arab spring revolutions. Mr. Friedman should have also looked at the other side of the coin and shed light on the negative role that western colonialism has played and continues to play in support of authoritarian corrupt regimes in the Arab world. This has been going on during the past two centuries at least and until the present time. Let me illustrate this point for the benefit of the readers. Mohamed Ali, the ruler of modern Egypt, built and developed an impressive Egyptian society physically, industrially, educationally and economically. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Egypt was more advanced than many European countries. What happened since the French and British invasion of Egypt? Britain dismantled the Egyptian industries, especially the textile ones, in order to export the raw cotton to Britain and re-export the manufactured textile back to the region. During British colonialist rule, Egypt regressed instead of progressed. Another example of the negative impact of Western colonialism is the fragmentation of the Arab world by Britain and France after World War I. Divide and rule was the western strategy. Another example was the creation of the Zionist state in 1948 by the U.S., disregarding the more than 80% of its Arab population’s views. A major colonialist blunder that turned the region into a continuously conflicted and unstable area. There has been almost 63 years of political turmoil in the region.
Another example that reflects the blunder of American colonialist strategy is its policy toward the oil producing countries in the region. President Eisenhower stated publicly that the end of British and French colonialism in the Middle East created a vacuum that the U.S. needs to fulfill. IN the early 1950s, his administration dismantled the freely elected government of Iran because Prime Minister Musadaq nationalized Iranian oil companies. The Iranian government had promised to compensate the oil companies. That blunder led to the rise of Islamic movements, which began to spread all over the region. Also, the nationalization of oil companies in Iraq during the 1970s was not accepted by the U.S. government, who imposed an oil export embargo on Iraq for more than two years. It was lifted afterward, but that action by the Iraqis led to other Arab oil producing countries to nationalize their oil.
The Iraqi action was never forgotten by policy makers in the U.S. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. was based on false political strategies to mislead the American people to believe Iraq posed a threat to the U.S. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. The purpose of the invasion was the removal of Saddam Hussein and the control of Iraqi oil. President Bush and the neocons got away with the crime they committed.
I would say without a second thought that western foreign policy in the Middle East was the major factor that led to the rise of terrorism.
Finally, some of the remarks made by American politicians in regard to the spring revolution in the Arab world is that they were aware of the absence of democratic institutions in the Arab world but they have opted for political stability in the region over democracy. The truth should be revealed, that the west never care to see or push for the institutionalization of democracy in the Arab world. They went out of their way to support and protect those political dictatorships as long as they implemented their western agendas.