Were popular revolutions much easier in the past? Were people able to take their rights into their own hands in days gone by, but are now powerless even after sacrificing everything? I have said repeatedly over the past seven years — the age of the Arab Spring — that revolutions are no longer domestic affairs. This is true not only for Arabs, but also for people all over the world, including those of developed countries, let alone the weak Third World and Arab states.
A veteran Arab journalist said at the beginning of the Arab Spring that the people should not bet on changing their situation through revolutions, as it is forbidden for them to do. He said that the major powers, which control the world, will not allow Arabs to be free and independent; it is impossible, even if they paid for it with blood. Thus, the Arabs must know that they're only allowed to show good dependency at best. The world powers may even bring them back to square one and have them long for tyranny, such as what is happening in Syria, Libya and Yemen, where the dreams of many is now to return to the old days of obedience, when Arab generals ran countries on behalf of the international powers. The tyrants in our countries, though, are just like their people; at a different level, maybe, but they are also tools and followers nonetheless, carrying out specific tasks for the real masters of the world.
That's why I have repeatedly said that Arab dictators are not the main culprits in the oppression and persecution of their people. They are more like the gaolers who perform a job with which they've been entrusted by someone else. In other words, the role of many people in our so-called sovereign states has been decided by others overseas and do not come from independent national thought, as is claimed. There is no sovereignty at all for functional regimes and states in this world. Each behaves according to the plans decided for it by those who put it in power in one country or another in order to serve outside agendas first and foremost, and only then do they look at domestic issues, if at all. Before judging one regime or another, take a look at the hierarchy of power in the world, which is like a large company, with a board of directors, agents, distributors and delegates. It is no wonder that Tunisian intellectual Hisham Jouait described many Arab rulers as being mere agents for outside powers, just like company agents or commercial representatives.
We should not think that people in developed countries have more freedom in terms of self-determination than the Arabs. The major powers may treat them in a better way, but in the end they are subject ultimately to their conditions and leadership. When the people of Eastern Europe rebelled against Soviet tyranny in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they did not decide their own destiny; they simply moved from the Soviet umbrella to the European umbrella. The EU immediately took them under its wing, directed by Washington, of course. Theoretically speaking, this is something positive, and many of the crushed people around the Third World aspire for something similar, but it also proves that not everyone always has self-determination. The aim behind mobilising one group of people against another is not to liberate anyone but to subsume them. This is what the West sought to do for half-a-century with the Soviet-bloc countries. When East European countries got rid of the Soviet tyranny, they joined the Western camp; this was not necessarily freedom, simply a move to another bloc.
The same is true for the Arab people who have gone through revolutions. If the people of Eastern Europe were not allowed to decide their own destiny, and had to join the Western European system with all its diktats, conditions and requirements, then it is no wonder that those ruling in the Arab world will prevent their people from having self-determination through the Arab Spring. That's why we saw Russian, American and other intervention in the Arab region immediately to orchestrate the transition or to direct the revolutions in the direction required by an external, not domestic, agenda.
Unfortunately, it was not even allowed for some of the countries that rebelled to move to a new stage, or to decide their own fate; they have been taken back to their old regimes, albeit with new faces. The people of Syria will not be allowed to decide their own fate after all the sacrifices they have made; they will have to go under the control of a great power, such as Russia or perhaps another.
In short, the situation of vulnerable people in this world is that they must be brought under the power of the stronger nations. The reality is that major powers such as America, Russia, Europe and other powers control the world according to their own agenda, and the only "self-determination" open to the smaller nations is to join one camp or another. The "freedom" for which they have fought, and which they are often encouraged to seek, is limited. They must not under any circumstances dream of being independent, even if they have given up millions of martyrs in their revolutions.
Although I believe that the Arabs must not dream of freedom, I do hope that I am wrong.
Translated from Arabi21.com, 1 April, 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.