Delta Fourth and Marwan Muasher on democracy and gangsters in the Arab world
Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former Jordanian diplomat and government minister, offers a number of bracing assertions and recommendations.
One is that revolution, reform, and rebuilding take time. Observers should not be too quick to write off the so-called Arab Spring. Opening Arab politics will take decades, Muasher says. Another is that uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere since 2011 have already shattered several myths, among them "that food must be put on the table before political reform can move forward." Muasher's target is economic liberalization unaccompanied by democratization in the Arab world, but I can't help recalling voices here in the United States that used to blandly insist that political reform would inevitably follow loosening of economic strictures. Such a stance is no doubt good for corporate profits, but somehow one does not hear those voices much anymore, and if China has become democratic, I missed it.
The Murder of Yasser Arafat suggests what can happen when gangsters run a government, or an organization that ostensibly aspires to government. Palestinians, especially capable members of the PLO leadership kept from the highest-level jobs by Arafat's jealousy, knew the Old Man salted away millions and was an obstacle to their personal and professional aspirations. The result is apparent in the book's title. And who is the real villain? A hint: It's not Israel.
Rees and Kalman have made their short book into a mix of inquiry and hard-boiled crime. But at least one bit sounds as if it could have come from Marwan Muasher's pen::
"When the gunmen killed someone like Adnan Shahine, it looked as though they were upholding the morals of the struggle against Israel. But there was something stronger at work: the lack of democracy and due process that eventually turned everyone against the Authority, including Arafat’s own ministers."
"Muhammad Dahlan ... is officially a man without a job or any visible means of support. But he glides through the West Bank in a bulletproof black Chevrolet Suburban supplied by his friends at the CIA bearing the official red and white license plates of the Palestinian Authority. Everywhere he goes, a phalanx of armed bodyguards surrounds him, sealing off the floor of his Ramallah Hotel and waiting on him with food and drink. The source of their salaries is unclear. Their loyalty is unquestioned.© Peter Rozovsky 2014
"Dahlan is on a break from an extended visit to Cambridge, where he is perfecting his English, courtesy of the British taxpayer."