Interesting Thoughts On Tunisia

Tunisia: The revolution that keeps giving

There has been a ton written so far on the Tunisian Revolution that resulted in the fleeing of former Tunisian authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, including analysis of expectations, consequences – both regional and local – well as many general reactions.  I’d like to point to a few that were particularly interesting:

  • [tweetmeme] Unlike the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, Tunisia’s revolution was completely ‘Islamist-Free.’ Michael Koplow explains how and why the lack of Islamic opposition led to such a quick end to the government. Unlike in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and most other secular Arab autocracies, the main challenge to the Tunisian regime has not come from Islamist opposition but from secular intellectuals, lawyers, and trade unionists.
  • The LATimes looks into how France, the major external actor in Tunisia, was generally complicit with the Ben Ali regime and – criminally say some – allowed for the regime’s brutal repression of the protests: Ben Ali had ruled Tunisia with an iron grip for 23 years and the country is considered one of the worst police states in the region. But his government’s ability to keep Islamists at bay and protect France’s interests earned him Paris’ trust.
  • Cameron Abadi compares Ben Ali’s precipitous fall to that of the Iranian Shah in 1979, noting the stunning similarity in their inefficient tactics: It’s hard to envy the position Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was in these last few weeks: There just aren’t many good answers available to despots who are faced with popular uprisings. Still, he should have known better than to settle on Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s 1978-1979 playbook for quelling incipient revolutions.
  • Daniel Larison, Brad Parsons and Emad Mckay look at why the United States remained so quite on this issue while playing a more vocal role in other conflicts.  The (very realist) consensus: the lack of clear US interests in Tunisia create a disincentive for choosing sides.  Did this hurt of help the protesters?

There are also very clear similarities and differences between this revolution and the Iranian Green Movement of 2009.  While many are comparing the two, it is important to take the many differences into account as well.  But that is for another post.

Photo from Island Breath

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