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The West, including the U.S., tends to interpret everything that happens in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of religion. In other words, we see the social and political turmoil daily rocking countries like Syria and we say, religion is behind all this. Maybe, but probably not, at least not all of what we see.

Certainly religion is involved in everything that takes place in the Middle East and North Africa. To some extent religion has been involved in the protests, conflicts, or revolutions called the “Arab Spring.” But religion doesn’t explain why dictators hang on to their posts with a death grip. Religion alone doesn’t explain why people risk their lives, why fighting has morphed into vicious guerilla warfare, or why other countries in the region don’t intervene to stop the killing in Syria.

What explains most of what’s happening in the region is simply the old evil triumvirate of power, greed, and corruption. Dictators like Ben Ali, Gaddafi, Mubarak, and now Assad want to hang onto power as long as possible. They don’t want to and for the most part don’t step down voluntarily. What they do, typically, is leave office only when they are in a box.

And the triumvirate of self-aggrandizement is also at work among the opposition. Unfortunately, the rebels, insurgents, or protestors are not all freedom fighters. They are people who want power and are willing to do anything to get it. Once in control, no one is quite sure what kind of government and society the new regime would allow.

So it would behoove those of us in the West to step carefully in our foreign policy re changing or emerging regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. There’s still a place for realpolitik.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

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