Arab Turmoil and Viability of Nation States

Protesting has been one of the most important trends of the past year. Alexander Knyazev, regional programmes coordinator for the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, has been reflecting on the changes in the global geopolitical paradigm – a shift from a global game to the formation of regional political centres. Here, the ORIENTAL REVIEW republishes key ideas from his article in Russian published by the REGNUM News Agency.

Not a single one of the events that have been called “revolutions”, starting from what is commonly referred to as the “Great French Revolution” of 1789 at any rate, was a simple social protest. At all times and in all places, there was and still is an external factor. At all times and in all places, the overthrow and change of a political regime has been accomplished through the use of certain techniques. Simple techniques in the 18th century and extremely sophisticated ones in the events currently taking place in Africa and the Middle East.

Generally speaking, recent events have posed one simple but important question to all those attempting to analyse them – from professionals to politicians and journalists not quite apprised of all the facts – regarding the existence or lack of any kind of consistency in what has been happening. Are there common scenarios or episodes of an overall plan that need to be examined in the best traditions of conspiracy theories? Or is the situation in every country unique, specific, requiring its own individual approach and the mass hysteria that seized the world’s media at the time inappropriate?

Meanwhile, in the press, liberal-minded intellectuals generally talk about a special kind of “Arabic revolution against oppressors” which, they say, has absolutely nothing in common with the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran in 1979. The main focus of these people’s arguments is the Arab Street full of dictators who have outstayed their welcome and what they see as the natural desire of the people for democratic values in their standardised Anglo-Saxon formula. Noteworthy, for example, are the published instability ratings. So the Wall Street Journal, for instance, has effortlessly produced a list of potentially revolutionary countries using such criteria as social injustice, propensity for rebellion and expenditure on food…

Pseudo-scientific publications like these are essentially ordinary populism. A sacramental feature of every anti-government party, movement, foundation etc. in any country is the all-out love which is expressed for social justice. The subject of social justice is an emotive one and easily exploited. There is no need for an abundance of knowledge and analytical skills to be aware of it. Niccolò Machiavelli once wrote: “People who believe a new ruler will prove to be better gladly rise up against the old one, but soon realise that they have been deceived, since a new ruler always proves to be worse than the old one…” The experience of every world revolution supports this fact. It is easy to direct the collective consciousness towards a search for Hosni Mubarak’s or Muammar Gaddafi’s billions, while at the same time establishing a new regime absolutely identical to the one just overthrown.

Globalisation has a policy of drawing failed states and the world’s proto-governmental bodies into the “controlled chaos” of constant conflict. This policy of globalisation allows for the development of such fundamental concepts of international law as sovereignty, non-intervention, the inviolability of borders and a number of others in a form which is inadequate for the challenges of our times, permanently worsening the crisis of contemporary international law. Meanwhile, the activities of national elites in a number of countries are important to a certain extent; not in and of themselves, but as components of a strategic design, the supporting points of an established process control system for the creation of a new global governance structure. So as to distinguish it from the former system of “balanced international relations”, Alexander Neklessa calls this a system of “dynamic intraglobal relations”.

There is no doubt that any mass movement or protest arises amid the discontent of a significant part or majority of the population with their situation and their disbelief in the possibility of improving it under the current regime. However, these reasons are not determinative. So-called “endogenous” factors – low wages and a rise in prices, an uncertainty over social issues, corruption etc. – these conditions are only contributory factors. If they were not there, it would just be more difficult to organise the chaos of protests. For instance, the GDP per capita in Libya was almost 19,000 USD in 2010, while in Kazakhstan it was nearly 7,000 USD.  According to the UN’s Index of Human Development, Libya was in 53rd place while Kazakhstan, for example, was 66th. Subsequently, according to the method using the simple mathematical calculation of quality of life indicators, Kazakhstan should have fallen prey to the revolutionary syndrome long ago, not to mention the significantly less wealthy Armenia, Tajikistan and Moldavia.

The relative deprivation theory states that revolutions and civil unrest usually take place where people realise they could live better, as opposed to where the standard of life is permanently low. Without being totally acceptable in every way, this theory in many respects supports the opinion that the socio-economic factors of the events and processes under discussion are of a secondary nature. In fact, all of the socio-economic indices per capita in conservative countries that have existed for a relatively long time without any political and legal changes are noticeably higher, as a rule…

It would be naive to suppose that everything going on in North Africa and the Middle East is as a result of the people’s will, which suddenly swept over the countries of the Arab world in literally just a few moments. The interdependence of events and the subsequent interdependent development paradigms of the Old World’s huge geopolitical space should be the subject for analysis, the subject under discussion. Let the laymen wail over a worldwide wave of civil protesters, tired of authoritarianism…

Eugene Messner (1891-1974)
Eugene Messner (1891-1974)

Everything that has taken place has the obvious signs of an all-out “network warfare”. As far back as the beginning of the 1960s, Russian academic and émigré Evgeny Messner identified the fundamental features of a new type of war relevant to the information age, among which he listed the absence of battle lines and clear borders between adversaries and the transformation of social conscience into the main object of influence. A transformation of the idea of the “battlefield” to an idea of the “battle space” is currently underway. Besides the traditional objectives of defeating the enemy, this concept also includes objectives which are to be found in the virtual sphere: an adversary’s emotions, perception and state of mind. The main focus is on work with the administrative and intellectual elites, the media and the young, as well as socially-marginalised population groups. The methods employed when working with the masses are the same methods used to manipulate members of totalitarian sects. Young people and teenagers are turned into fanatics crammed with proper quotations and frantically believing in the ideals of Western democracy. The use of such neuropsychological encoding techniques by political organisations in various countries has been observed by specialists time and again.

Local, often pinpointed, conflicts are taking the place of territorial and inter-state wars, but they always have a high degree of external factor intervention. This could be civil conflicts with external influence, peacekeeping operations and border conflicts with the involvement of international contingents, “humanitarian interventions” and so on. These are the tools which are most effective for the desovereignisation of nation states in possession of various resources.

However, today we see a priori how unprepared the modern world is for such a drastic re-examination of the role and position of the institution of the state itself as one of the fundamental units of the whole world order. The events in and around Syria only confirm this.

Translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW.

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