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Blog Archive – June, 2011

"Shock Doctrine" Applied on the Arab Awakenings?

June 15, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The true test of revolution will come when Arab youth will not only say to outsiders, “hands off our revolution”. They need to resist the bribes and seductions that are sure to follow.

As if it isn’t bad enough that natural disasters become opportunities for western capitalist adventures to ‘clean the field’.

In her excellent 2007 study “Shock Doctrine”, Naomi Klein describes how western powers prepare the ground for corporate control. According to Kline’s analysis, the Friedman economic model lies at the heart of US foreign policy. The US, she claims, takes the opportunity of disasters, or creates upheaval in order to establish their economic plan on a ‘clear playing field’. This doctrine has been applied after natural disasters such as the Sri Lankan tsunami, the Haitian earthquake, and the toppling of governments that threatened capitalist dominance such as in Chile and in Iraq. 

Bad enough. But I wonder: could the USA view current Arab uprisings as a frame on which to apply its underhanded and vicious policy under the name ‘aid’? Today it’s labeled “civil society and democracy” or something equally noble. Could the heroic Arab Awakening offer Western powers opportunities to take over the revolution?

Improbable--at first glance. These are indigenous revolutions, led by people who themselves are cleansing corrupt systems. Citizens began the revolt; they already accomplished the unthinkable, and without outside help. (Even if  there is still a long road to climb, such as in Egypt and Tunisia.)

What first alerted me about a western co-opting of the ‘Arab Awakening’ was not American and British finger-waving at their old friends, the dictators. Not even backroom meetings between their military leaders. Nor the role that western social networkers claimed as theirs.

It was the US president’s offer last month of two billion dollars for the revolutionaries in Egypt and Tunisia. At the G8 meeting a few days later, the two billion became nearly $20 billion for the brave people across the Arab lands engaged in ridding themselves of dictators.

$20 billion! For what? It is not designated as military support. And who asked for it? $20 billion to help countries establish ‘new democratic institutions’! As if it is something to be bought over the counter. And what sign is there that it’s money  that’s needed, after what we witnessed, namely unarmed demonstrators who brandished nothing but courage, determination and their own voices. (see Poetry Square, Feb 5, 2011, Those cannot be bought, or sold. What have billions of aid to Afghanistan and Palestinians done for their democratic hopes? The main outcome seems to be corruption, stagnation, and a dominant Western hand in internal affairs.

According to writer Soumaya Ghannoushi, those billions promised for Arab youth are already at work. In her May 26/11 Guardian article “Obama, Hands off Our Spring”, she informs us of some of the conferences and workshops underway to channel the revolutionary Arab spirit into US hands. In Washington and elsewhere, she writes, US “programmes aimed at youth leaders include the Leaders for Democracy Arabic project, and the US state department's Middle East partnership initiative….”….  “young activists … are hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy of many conferences and seminars. Meetings are underway “between high-ranking US officials and the Muslim Brotherhood” in Egypt and with Tunisia Muslim representatives in the US.

Ghannoushi warns, “Washington hopes that these rising forces can be stripped of their ideological opposition to US hegemony and turned into pragmatists, fully integrated into the existing US-led international order.” Plans "to stabilise and modernise" the Tunisian and Egyptian economies…drafted by the World Bank, IMF and European Development Bank at Washington's behest... A $2bn facility to support private investment...”

It looks like genuine aid on the surface. Ghannoushi recalls Obama’s own words: “…now a historic opportunity…, to pursue the world as it should be.”


Ghannoushi’s alert is reinforced by Ahdaf Soueif (again in the Guardian Weekly 27 May/11 ) who warns: “To Arabs, the US is a force of occupation draped in a thin cloak of democracy and human rights.”

In “Our revolt is not for the US”, Soueif points the finger at Washington’s double standards, and how previous supports for freedom resulted in crony capitalism, blackmailing politicians, and widespread corruption. To Obama’s promises that US interests are essential to people’s hopes, she retorts:  ‘it’s obfuscation, and an insult to every citizen… who followed our revolution”.

Aid seems so well intentioned. But Naomi Klein spells out how it really works and her analysis is worth revisiting. “Shock Doctrine” documents just how western powers rush to fill the vacuum created by natural disasters in order to establish an investment environment. Klein illustrates how capitalist forces can similarly ‘precipitate’ a disaster, overthrowing countries with unfriendly economic systems in order to militarily impose their system. It’s hard to accept this ugly truth; but Klein’s research is convincing.

More troubling is the possibility that this same process is now aimed against our celebrated and prideful Arab Awakening. Is the US working on that clean slate to implant its own plan?

Our brave citizens who began this historic process are resisting the powerful economic and military forces that chain them. They are tearing down barriers set against them for decades. More hard work lies ahead to realize the revolution they began. Now, they must resist the more subtle, crafted intellectual might of the partners of their former oppressors. Can they do it? 

[ "Shock Doctrine" Applied on the Arab Awakenings? ]

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