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On Imperialist Intervention

This is with reference to Stuart Schaar’s review (23 February) of my book, Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (LeftWord 2012). My book conveys three related arguments. Firstly, the Arab Spring is an unfinished process, driven by myriad social forces arrayed against the twinned powers of neo-liberal economic policy and authoritarian political structures. Fallacious arguments about “democracy promotion” and “social media” missed the longer history of struggle that prepared the terrain for the ongoing battle to fashion a new dispensation in the region. Secondly, the forces of the counter-revolution (or indeed imperialism), manifest in the capitals of the west and in their local client regimes (the Gulf Arab states and Israel, as well as in the recesses of the Arab authoritarian regimes), fought back from the first glimmer of the Spring. Ben Ali, the client of France, and Mubarak, the client of the United States, had to be defended until such defence was no longer viable. They had managed the region through four pillars: the steady removal of oil, the firm hand of friendship for clients capable of hegemonic control over the region (the Gulf Arabs), the unyielding defence of Israel, and finally, the isolation of powers deemed to be “revisionists”, or those who threaten the managed order (since 1979, Iran).

Thirdly, the Libyan rebellion was an authentic upsurge among social forces alienated from the Gaddafi regime, which had begun to drift from its radical origins in 1969 into the arms of reaction by the 1990s and 2000s. This upsurge provided an opening for the counter-revolution, which sought to make vastly exaggerated claims about genocide in order to trigger the United Nations’ (UN) Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine and intervene with military force. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)/Gulf Arab intervention in Libya provided an avenue for the counter-revolution to assert itself as a genuine social force of the Arab Spring – as the defender of the very democracy that the west had so long been eager to suppress. It also provided cover for the Saudi intervention to crush the rebellion in Bahrain.

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