By Pradyut Hande:
The latest spate of violence directed at US Diplomatic establishments in Egypt and Libya over waves of brutal and belligerent protests against a controversial film directed by an Israeli-American does not augur well for the oldest democracy in the world, the USA. At a time when its global supremacy is on the wane and its continual battle to resuscitate a flagging economy has borne precious little fruit, these unfortunate incidents have further undermined the USA’s tenuous relationship with the Arab world. While irate Egyptian protestors tore down the American flag after scaling the walls of the Embassy in Cairo and indulged in vociferous demonstrations, directing torrents of calumny at hapless American officials; the situation was more perverse in Libya what with armed gunmen storming the Embassy compound in Benghazi and killing four officials, including the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
The motive behind these gruesome assaults is staunch protest against an inflammatory film in question that allegedly projects the Prophet in poor light, in addition to describing Islam as a “cancer”. However, when examined through a more discerning lens, there is more to it than just prima facie evidence. The tentacles of derision and resentment against the American establishment have taken a vice like grip on the often misinformed and highly impressionable psyches of many a denizen from the Muslim world. Often their overpowering sense of “Islamic filial conjugation” with their fellow Muslim brothers across borders prompts them to associate with causes and situations that they necessarily may not be experiencing first hand. Thus, the news of alleged atrocities or condemnable acts against Muslim populations elsewhere in the world can spread like wildfire, stoking the latent ire of other Islamic communities (justifiably so on many occasions). This “phenomenon” is more pronounced in the Middle East and the Arab dominion at large.
For decades, through its carefully calibrated amalgamation of prudent diplomatic policies and provision of unconditional support to authoritarian regimes, the Americans were able to maintain a fragile status quo with the Arab world. However, with the progression of time and deteriorating socio-economic and civic conditions in many of these countries, the hitherto oppressed denizens woke up to a grim reality and rose in mutiny against their dictatorial leaders; spawning the recent “Arab Spring“. With countries such as Egypt and Libya presently in the throes of a major socio-economic and democratic transition, the sensitive situation treads the tightrope of stability and volatility in equal measure. Fractured leadership, rebel activism and insurgency aimed at attenuating the democratic process further add to the woes of these nation states.
At the same time, the citizens of these countries continue to remain casualties of gross economic mismanagement and political instability. The optimism fuelled by the promise of a brighter tomorrow which beckoned once their autocrats were overthrown has gradually been replaced by deep seated frustration and discontent at the sluggish pace of change. Thus, all it takes is a minor spark to snowball into a raging conflagration. A minor provocation is enough to fuel the ire of an entire populace. The controversial film directed by an Israeli-American has certainly provided these already fuming populations a reason to rise up in protest.
The manner in which these angry mobs have acted, venting their fury on innocent individuals is condemnable. No matter how incensed a community may be, there is no excuse for resorting to violence of such magnitude and consequence. The transitional states of Egypt and Libya at present require the “proactivity” and “strategic largesse” accorded by the USA. These tragic incidents have only further alienated the USA from the Arab world. Strategic alliances are forged on the bedrock of mutual respect and cooperation; not on the tainted hues of violence and murder. Thus, it remains to be seen how the USA deals with this sensitive situation and recalibrates its fragile ties with the Arab world. Furthermore, the manner in which the American populace is also assuaged in response to these attacks on American personnel may well become a telling determinant of the impending US Presidential Elections.
The ground realities maybe extremely volatile. However, one hopes that calmer heads prevail and adopt a trajectory of calibrated diplomacy to further the reformatory agenda in these countries. The USA would certainly be better served by a stable Arab dominion, while these states must realise that they would merely benefit from a more proactive American role in their region at this critical time. Time is of the essence, and so is pragmatic action.