By Mr. Munir Daair
One of the questions that will face post revolution Arabia is how to redefine its relations with nations that have supported the regimes overthrown during the Arab Spring.
I say redefine because the temptation to burn boats with nations that have supported dictatorships is neither sustainable nor desirable. The tenets of relations between nations need not be determined by what we did to each other in the past but what we can do for each other in the future. This is the message we must take to the antagonists of the past, friends of the future.
The challenge for the new Arabia will be both, internal and external.
Internally, it will come from the angry forces that revolted against the dictatorships and their foreign supporters. In the aftermath of revolutions there is always a tendency to see any calls to move away from revolutionary rhetoric and emotions as reactionary and anti-revolution. In the end the new governments are run by forces that believe revolutionary legitimacy and fervor must preside over constitutional legitimacy and pragmatism. And therein lie the new seeds of dictatorships, failure and the inevitable next revolution. The revolutionary forces of the Arab Spring must break this vicious cycle.
It is one thing to create a revolution, it is quite another to govern a country. The equation is simple. While the victory of revolution can be achieved through fervor and street mobilization, the success of revolution can only be achieved through pragmatism and critical thinking.
It is the later in this equation that will sustain the revolution as it navigates itself through the treacherous waters of international relations and horse trading, especially with countries that have historically supported yesterday’s regimes.
In the new Arabia we must redefine our international priorities carefully, both, on the short term and the long term.
Arab politics has been greatly influenced by the west. While this is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be absolute. Energy, trade and security are and will remain the mainstay of Arab Western relations. Managed on a leveled playing field, the three can be mutually beneficial.
The changes gradually taking shape in Arabia offer opportunities even as they create challenges, for both, Arabia and the West.
However, as we in Arabia have finally started the long march of evolution, so must the West in its relations with Arabia. While we in Arabia must refuse to be held hostage by the past and we will continue to advocate a forward looking new page in our relations, the west must also free itself from its past.
Barack Obama’s speech to the British parliament in May 2011 was very telling. For the Arabs, the core of the message was that western short term interests prevailed over long term prudence. One should add, such narrow short term agendas have destructive long term consequences, especially when the subjects oppressed by their dictatorial masters rise up and identify not just the dictators, but their benefactors too, as part of the problem.
Nevertheless, Obama’s admission is an important breakthrough for redefining Arab Western relations. We need to take it one step forward. The west must also realize that the incoming governments of Arabia, unlike the outgoing dictatorships, will be answerable to their people and therefore have less wiggle room