Hezbollah says Iran would destroy Saudi Arabia in any war    Egypt's health ministry bans all ranitidine medication    Center-back shortage hands Manchester City's Guardiola new dilemma in defense    EgyptAir chairman Ahmed Adel named as member of IATA nominating committee    Soccer authorities meet with Twitter over racist abuse    Egypt's SODIC interested in Heliopolis Housing stake: CEO    Colossal statues, obelisk arrive at GEM from Egyptian Museum    From Australia to Europe, climate protesters hit the streets    Afghanistan hospital attack deaths rise to 39, with 140 wounded: Afghan official    Cairo Opera hosts closing ceremony of the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre    Tottenham Hotspur FC completes 637 million stg stadium refinancing    Rooney wants another trip to MLS playoffs before going home    Egypt, UAE cooperate over drugs combating    Sisi Oks additional loan to fund Egypt's largest drainage system    Allianz Egypt allots $399K to promote UNICEF's vulnerable children initiative    U.S., Gulf allies discuss response to Saudi oil attack    Saudi stock market rises on oil supply pledge, interest rate cut    Israel's Netanyahu calls on rival Gantz to form unity government with him    Felix Brych to referee Ahly-Zamalek Super Cup game in Egypt's Alexandria    US Fed cuts interest rates for second time since 2008, amid “uncertainties”    Sudanese PM Hamdok flies to Egypt for talks    Danone Nations, DECATHLON launch series of initiatives, creating change    World at risk of pandemics that could kill millions    'Egypt will not allow any country to impose its will on another in Ethiopian dam issue,' FM says    Egypt's new listing amendments mandate more women on boards    Egypt, Ethiopia at odds as talks over Blue Nile dam resume    5 plant-based soup recipes to warm your body and soul    Egypt's Ahly to train for Super Cup game against Zamalek immediately    Egypt says GERD talks with Ethiopia 'stumbled', next round in Khartoum in October    Tutankhamun Opera to debut with inauguration of Grand Egyptian Museum: Zahi Hawass    Egypt court sentence 6 to death for joining terrorist group, manufacturing explosives; 8 acquitted    Egypt's Sisi discusses education, terrorism at national youth conference    Sisi to open 8th edition of the National Youth Conference Saturday    Egypt's PM discusses details of Al-Hussein Mosque renovation    Egypt's Baron Empain Palace to be reopen after renovation    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Cairo's historic Tahrir square to be renovated – PM    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





The Arabs' lost decade
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 04 - 2019

The decade that ends this year (2010-2019) wasn't kind to the Arabs. It opened with the political explosion of widespread popular uprisings. By the time it was halfway through, oil prices had collapsed, more than a million people had died, twice that number had been wounded and exponentially more had been displaced and turned into refugees. The amount of destruction that had been wreaked on the cities of this region and on history remains incalculable. The second half of the century brought attempts to repair the damage, to salvage whatever possible and to plan for reconstruction, most of which will be done in the coming decade (2020-2030).
The turn of the century took place 10 years before that calamitous decade. Despite the celebrations that greeted the third millennium, a true appreciation of the significance of the chronological transition was missing. The world had been changing since the end of the Cold War and the onset of the third industrial revolution. No one, at the time, realised that another, more powerful fourth revolution was at the threshold and knocking more insistently at our doors with every passing day.
The bitter truth is that Arab peoples weren't ready for the new century and the new millennium. Worse yet, they didn't know they weren't ready. The decision-making agencies in this region were oblivious to the changes that were taking place in the world. Only rarely would you come across a decision-maker who knew how to use that piece of machinery that had become familiar everywhere else in the world, namely the computer. Rarer yet was the official who was fluent in a foreign language. The Arabic language, itself, had deteriorated greatly. The reasons are too complex to discuss here, but suffice to say that the language is no longer capable of expressing what people want to say. The young, especially the more educated, have begun to invent a new Arab language and new Arab letters that serve for social networking purposes and for political surprises as well. The Arab printed press had begun to enter its decline as was the case with its counterparts in most other parts of the world. The difference here was that it was commonly believed that the satellite channels could fill the gap. Their inability to do so was such that television viewing has also become moribund.
The Arab immune system had grown so feeble that the Arab “body” had grown vulnerable to invasion by Islamist radicalism. Civil wars opened opportunities for opportunistic neighbours such as Iran, which seized upon the chance to saunter into one Arab capital after the other. Turkey felt that it had historic and strategic rights in northern Iraq and northern Syria and it had cast its sights as far as Suwakin in Sudan in its attempt to revive a distant past. Israel not only evaded the peace process, it also began to gnaw at the Palestinian entity, heedless of the advice of George Bush Jr and indifferent to Barack Obama's attempts to revive the peace process it had betrayed. Eventually, there was nothing to deter the Hebrew state from gobbling up Jerusalem and the Golan and to keep Donald Trump from helping it. Russia intervened militarily in Syria with an audacity that began in Georgia and Ukraine. In part, this step contained an element of settling old accounts with the West. But it was also part of a new Russian strategy for holding its own against the West and the East. Russia has become a great power again and it keeps channels open with Iran, Turkey, Israel, Arab countries as well as with China.
The Arabs weren't prepared for any of this. Nor were their advisers commensurate to the task or research centres equipped to do the proper monitoring and assessments. All that remained were some historical traditions and some unbreakable bonds that the instinct of survival kicked into action to halt the great collapse. In a sense, 2015 was a turning point in the counteroffensive which began with the reforms initiated by King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia and Egypt's emergence from Muslim Brotherhood captivity with the help of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait. The confrontation was two-pronged. On the domestic front it was waged with reform processes while on the external front it focused on the fight to halt trans-border terrorism and Iranian expansion into the region following the fall of Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sanaa into various types of Iranian control and hegemony.
In his assessment of the first three years of the implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to change the face of Saudi Arabia, Nader Habibi, professor of the economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University, observes that Saudi Arabia has achieved notable successes with respect to governance reforms and improvements in public sector efficiency, and it has aggressively carried out many of the plan's social and cultural reforms. Habibi, in an article which appeared in the Middle East Brief published by Brandeis University's Crown Centre for Middle East Studies, cites, for example, the World Economic Forum's 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, which shows an improvement in the kingdom's scores in all indicators of governance during 2017. Earlier this year, Riyadh announced that it would achieve a budgetary surplus for the first time in many years.
It was a race with time in order to achieve such “strategic transformations” in view of the extraordinary pace of deterioration in the region since the outset of the decade combined with plummeting oil and gas prices plus the ferocity of the assault by regional, international and terrorist forces. Such a race demanded prioritising certain objectives which, in turn, necessitated deferring or extending the duration of some of the Saudi Vision 2030's “giga projects” such as the NEOM futuristic city project and the Aramco Strategic Transformation Programme. Still, according to Habibi, this probably turned out to be something of a “blessing in disguise” in view of the high costs of these projects which will not contribute short-term revenues to the national budget.
Yet, it is precisely here that we find the difference between the politician's vision and that of the technocrat. The politician's vision is more far-reaching chronologically and strategically whereas that of the technocrat has more limited horizons. To put it more concretely, what would the US have been were it not for the drive of Western expansion that culminated in the economic and civilisational utilisation of what is virtually an entire continent, or without NASA projects to put a man on the moon, and without the scientific, cultural and civilisational evolution that made this possible? At most, it would have been no greater than another “Argentina” on the Atlantic or another Chile on the Pacific.
A new decade of the 21st century will begin when this year is over. Perhaps for the first time in contemporary Arab history, a number of Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait) will enter the new decade armed with a comprehensive vision and the courage to think of the previously unthinkable, including a revolution against a long history of futile traditional thought. They will also be prepared to change their internal geographies with reform and development programmes that embrace the entire country and martial all available resources. At the same time, they will sustain a fierce battle against terrorism and a firm resistance against foreign intervention.
Domestically, these countries will not only experience higher rates of growth in human and material resources but also efforts to contain new waves of the so-called “Arab Spring” and to steer these energies towards reform, development and progress. This is currently happening in Sudan, Libya and Algeria while Iraq and Yemen are receiving extensive support. In all events, the worst of times are behind us now, while the best lay ahead.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The writer is chairman of the board, CEO and director of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.


Clic here to read the story from its source.