Saturday, 21 May 2011

Depending on Western powers for support?

I have no doubt in mind that things would have played out very differently in Libya without intervention from NATO forces. I do remember my anxiousness when Gaddaffi's troops and mercenaries were closing in on Benghazi as NATO and the UN were discussing the legality of intervention and the kind of intervention required. It felt like they were only teasing the Arabs as they waited for the last opportune moment to strike at Gaddaffi and save the Libyan rebellion. But that doesn't change the fact that they did.

And again it is also true that if it wasn't for alot of the previous interferences, alliances and support from the Western powers throughout modern history alot of the current (and past) tyrants wont be haunting the Arab world, but they are.

And at a crucial moment in Arab history, the Western powers give what can be viewed as a mixed message. While president Obama of the US gave just a few days ago what appears to be a very supportive message to the Arab people in a speech at the State Department, David Cameron (the US prime minister) welcomes a tyrants who crushed protesters calling for democracy in Bahrain.  Sure we cannot take the whole 'West' into one basket and say they should all have the same foreign policy, but at the same time there is a common degree of agreement amongst the major Western powers on what direction to take in whichever item in question. The UK outwardly does claim to support Arab democratic movements as William Hague (the foreign secretary of the UK) a few days ago called on the international community to support the democratic movements in the Middle East.

So what is going on?

Well, I would say there is no mixed message really. The Western powers have based their internal and external policies on a capitalist ideology. Their market capitalism has one policy and one policy only that we can be sure will be consistent; they'll support whatever they see as more profitable. Again, returning to the UK for an example (uncharacteristically they seem to be very bad at keeping blatant Capitalism under the table), Cameron on February this year (very soon after Mubarak was overthrown) made a visit to Egypt under the banner of "promoting Arab democracy". But he didn't go alone, he went with a bunch of arms dealers tagging along! So looking at Bahrain, we can see why Western powers will not be attacking the tyrannical monarchs of that country.

(a) Because of Saudi Arabia's support to the al-Khalifa royal family (and Saudi Arabia is THE biggest Western allie in the Middle East - I would even say closer to the West than Israel).

(b) Because the Bahraini royals are themselves very close allies to the West. Yes, so was Mubarak - and this is why we didn't hear a peep out of the West against Mubarak until after he stepped down and/or it was clear he will be stepping down.

(c) The protesters are mainly (but not exclusively) from the Shia community of Bahrain - which is natural as the majority of Bahrain's population is Shia Muslims. I do not really know the politics of the protesters and I do not want to make baseless assumptions, but there might be a degree of fear from the West that Iran might expand its influence if Bahrain gets ruled by Shia Muslims. Again, I do not know what the politics of the Bahrain protesters are, but I would assume this is something Western powers are calculating on.  One thing I think is for sure, a Bahrain ruled by a Shia Muslim will not be on as good terms with Saudi Arabia as the al-Khalifa family (not because of them being Shia, but because of Saudi Arabia being Saudi Arabia).  Whether that would mean they would jump into an Iranian bed is a different question which I don't know enough to answer.

So in conclusion, it really comes down to profit. The Western powers will not support anyone for any ideological or moral reasons. If economic or political power can be profited from in supporting one cause over another, then they will follow that cause no matter what morals, ethics or their own ideological pursuit of democracy calls for.