10 Feb 2014
A short, pre-emptive history of the Arab Spring
The Arab Spring was so called because it started in December. But it’s a little-known fact that in Arabic it’s not called the Arab Spring, but ‘the so-called Arab Spring’. It is generally agreed that the Arab Spring started in Tunisia in December 2010, although some imaginative people date its beginning back to the ‘Beirut Spring’ of 2005, or the removal of Saddam Hussein by the Americans in 2003, or the invention of political metaphors by Thomas Friedman in 1983.
The Tunisian revolution ended with the swift departure of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who subsequently became known as ‘Ben Ali the Hasty’. Although that was kind of pointless because nobody talked about him anymore and a thus an excellent moniker was wasted which is a shame because history books are full of such monikers. Like Louis the Fat and Leopold the Passive Aggressive, but I digress.
A footnote: Ben Ali went to live in Saudi Arabia like many a dictator before him. It remains a historical curiosity to this day why Saudi Arabia is so keen on hosting dictators but some analysts have pointed out to the fact that this is because old dictators are referred to as ‘dinosaurs’, so Saudi Arabia is trying to maintain its supply of fossil fuels for the future.
Eleven days after Ben Ali’s departure a revolution started in Egypt demanding President Hosni Mubarak step down. The revolution was started by Egyptian SECULARISTS, which is an acronym made up of the names of the groups participating in the revolution, such as the Sixth of April Movement, the Eleventh of April Movement, THE Tenth of April Movement and so on. As the days passed, the Egyptian Army was torn between its loyalty to Mubarak and the Egyptian desire to break Tunisia’s record of 28 days for a dictator stepping down, so it stepped in and forced Mubarak to step down after 18 days, thus ensuring Egypt’s name in the record books.
Mubarak was given the choice between prison and exile in Saudi Arabia, so he chose prison. Most historians agree that what happened next was quite complicated to get into, and it is generally agreed that it’s best to skip a few paragraphs to the election of Field Marshall and Most Manly Man Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to President of Egypt in 2014 where he stayed in power until 2032 or forever, whichever comes first.
It was Libya’s turn next, according to an ancient Arab system that is based on observing the movement of the stars for a while and then realizing the futility of that and deciding to revolt. The Libyan people decided to topple Gaddafi, but Gaddafi said he wasn’t actually the leader and reminded everyone of that episode in Seinfeld when Kramer couldn’t be fired from his job because he wasn’t actually employed by the corporation.
At this point, the world held its breath because this was the first Arab revolt not directed against a Western-friendly regime, particularly if we ignore Tony Blair’s grovelling to Gaddafi and the CIA making use of his state of the art torture facilities. I mean Gaddafi’s torture facilities, not Tony Blair’s, because Blair preferred to rent facilities when he needed them, in keeping with his Third Way political philosophy which highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships.
After observing the situation for a few months, the West leapt into action and decided that it would be convenient to abandon Gaddafi and to try to look like the good guys. Gaddafi was given the choice between exile in Saudi Arabia and death, so he chose death. Nobody knows exactly what happened next in Libya, but maybe if you’re reading this in the future you could tell us.
At this point president Assad II of Syria was smugly going around telling everyone that there will be no uprising in Syria because he was a Just and Good Ruler. President Assad had succeeded his father, who was coincidentally also called Assad, and had continued his father’s tradition of providing free public services like education, health and torture. But the ungrateful Syrian people overlooked this generosity and decided to revolt. Assad was given a choice between exile in Saudi Arabia and exile in Qatar, so he decided to fight back.
It is generally agreed that the Syrian revolution started with peaceful demonstrations against the government, but some people said that those demonstrations were actually filmed on special sets that were built for this purpose in Qatar. However, some people argued that the people saying that the demonstrations were filmed on set in Qatar were themselves saying this on special sets built in Iran. The people making those accusations were accused of making those statements on special sets built in Turkey. This may help explain why Syria is known for its historic dramas which are filmed on set.
The US and its Western allies didn’t know how to react to the Syrian revolt, with opinions split between those who said Assad should step down and others who thought he should step aside. This debate continued to plague American policy towards Syria, and President Obama decided to get around this by simultaneously arming and not arming the Syrian rebels, arguing that at least one of those policies will work. The policy was so clever that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009.
And thus ends our comprehensive history of the Arab Spring. If you’re reading this in the West or the Gulf, you’re probably missing the sections about Yemen and Bahrain but that’s only because they are inconvenient for American and Saudi leaders. You can find out more by searching for the word ‘truth’ on the internet. Just kidding, that would make you totally paranoid.
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The invention of political metaphors by Thomas Friedman in 1983 changed the world, one stereotypical generalization at a time.ReplyDelete
Best thing since 1066 and All That...ReplyDelete
Thomas Friedman did not invent political metaphors. He got them from his taxi driver.ReplyDelete
great analysis, sums it up really...ReplyDelete
This is just brilliant!ReplyDelete
love it......nothing like humor to bring truth back on the scene.ReplyDelete