The War for Freedom
by GARY H. JOHNSON, JR.
February 23, 2011
“From Iran to Sudan and from Libya to Afghanistan, the shadow of absolutism descended on the region’s masses after World War II.”
-Walid Phares, The Confrontation, 2008, p. 77
The dawn of 2011 has witnessed massive political earthquakes in the Greater Middle East. This started with the fall of Lebanon’s government to Hezbollah control, followed by the abrupt abdication of Tunisia’s dictator, to the dramatic ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. The pace of change in the region has outstripped Western intelligentsia’s ability to keep up with the consequences of the multiplying chaos. Questions abound as Libya slides along a blade’s edge; “rivers of blood” is the forecast of the day. Bahrain's youth, amassed in Pearl Square are holding their breath, riding a wave of solidarity. Agitations for liberalization among the youth of Yemen, Mauritania, Sudan, Algeria, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have erased any and all Western notions of stability in the near term. Reckoning with the gravitational push and pull of the tectonic plates in the region is a matter, at this point, of finding solid ground. The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East by Dr. Walid Phares provides readers with a firm, nuanced, contextual reading of the dissident movements in the region.
Jangled pundits, out of their depths, have seized upon the new buzz concept of “Social Media” to cope with what appears to be a miraculous, spontaneous combustion. Loud warnings about the Muslim Brotherhood’s designs fill the anti-jihad echo chamber in America in reactionary measure. The Coming Revolution accounts for these seismic shifts in the sands of the Middle East by recognizing the world as it is in the wake of 9/11:
“From Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Algeria, and Iran, new faces of dissidence have acquired international visibility. In the region, free bloggers, talk shows, journalists, human rights activists, and even newly elected legislators rise to the surface fighting an uphill battle against the combined forces of the status quo (regimes) and jihadi fascism (Salafists and Khomeinists). A breach in the wall of authoritarianism has opened: Democracy has penetrated the fortress of ‘Middle Earth.’ (Preface)”
In a vivid assessment of the “unlucky region,” Dr. Phares relays the uneasy truth that the forces of absolutism, embodied in the established rule of monarchies and autocracies, have joined in a “brotherhood against democracy” with Islamist movements to keep the democratic elements of their societies marginalized and isolated.
The Coming Revolution places the war for freedom waged by the dissidents of the Middle East into a continuum in which the shackle of the Caliphate, as both a religious and a political institution, has been “the legitimizing force” for the dynastic and totalitarian rulers of the region for fourteen hundred years. According to Dr. Phares, challenging the concept of the Caliphate as the source of power in the region will require nothing less than “a revolution in political thinking,” a position which begs Western observers to reconsider the long-frame of the movements in the region calling for “change.”
Bringing the reader to the modern day, Dr. Phares brings into question the wisdom of U.S. foreign policy in its handling of the Baathist regimes of Iraq and Syria. Earning Syrian support in the effort to topple Saddam Hussein meant giving the Baathist regime of Assad a green light to roll into Beirut. Questioning the “stabilizing” nature of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, The Coming Revolution traces the rise and fall of the Cedar Revolution in the shadow of Rafik Hariri’s assassination at the hands of Hezbollah.
“A revolution was taking place in Beirut, more than one-third of the population was in the streets, and they were telling the world that they had had enough of oppression. In fact, this was a revolution in how revolutions were carried out. Alone and forgotten for more than a quarter-century, the Lebanese people were rising. Without a no-fly zone to protect them, like the Iraqi Kurds, or a military invasion to remove the oppressive ruling power, like Afghanistan and Iraq, finally a nation, small in size but culturally vibrant, showed the international community that revolt in Middle Earth was brewing. That revolt would explode on March 14, 2005.” (pp. 184-185)
Syria’s withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon was a great victory for the young peaceful demonstrators; but, Syria’s influence remained alongside Hezbollah’s arms. Masterfully drawing forth the history of U.S. and U.N. diplomatic activity surrounding UNSCR 1559, Phares laments his homeland’s forces for human dignity held hostage to the designs of both Syria’s Baathist regime and Iran’s Islamic Establishment. After enduring the trials of a 33-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in July of 2006 and a Hezbollah led coup in May of 2008, the Cedar Revolution was on life support.
In January of 2011, one month after the release of The Coming Revolution, Western observers witnessed sporadic demonstrations as Hezbollah engineered the collapse of the Saad Hariri government. But before the world could fully reckon with the fractured dreams of the Cedar Revolution and fully deal with the tectonic shift in Iranian ascendance in the region, the helicopter of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was carrying a toppled dictator into the sunset. In a flash, Egypt’s pro-democracy forces mobilized and marched on Tahrir Square. While Americans, by and large were asking, “Where is Tunisia?” tires burned in Lebanon’s streets and Israel braced for America’s response to the fast-falling Cairo domino.
Phares’ The Coming Revolution explores in more than timely fashion the depths of the democratic forces ushering in change in North Africa from Algeria to Sudan to Libya to Tunisia to Egypt. He exposes the truth about the millions lost to genocide and hundreds of thousands sold into slavery in Africa at the hands of Arab elites and militant Islamist militias. From the Arabian Peninsula to a rising Persian superpower, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda, Walid Phares commendably categorizes the threats to democracy’s champions in revolt behind the iron curtain of Islamic Supremacy. With a startling clarity, Phares reveals the manner in which totalitarian regimes of the Greater Middle East, this last half century, have utilized the sensation and splash of external conflict to draw the curtain and purge internal dissidents. Part memoir, part call, Phares spikes the punch, outlining the patient lengths undertaken by western academic and media elites to insure that America’s freedom fighters remain distant, dormant.
For those seeking solid ground as the waters rise, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East is a first step forward.
Dr. Phares’ book taught me that an iron curtain exists in the Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian regions. Behind this Islamic iron curtain, a host of absolute monarchies, autocrat dictators and Islamist Regimes were working in tandem with jihadist elements and Islam’s supremacist movements. Together, they have been marginalizing, isolating and stamping out pockets of dissidents who clamor for a mixture of alternative agendas like democracy, individual rights, secular governance, self-rule, and economic liberty.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and is host of The Elemental Struggle on the Radio Jihad Network at 6pm every Wednesday.