Did we cause the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Algeria and Yemen to happen?

Discussion in 'Syria, Mali, Libya, Middle East & North Africa' started by fraudstar, Jul 27, 2012.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Had the World not been shown that a small insurgency and militias could bring the US-led coalition in Iraq and the NATO intervention in Afghanistan to what has at times been a defeat, would the uprisings of the (extended) Arab Spring have happened?

    Has the failure in Basra under the British and the stalemate in securing the Dashte, the poppy harvest and more rural parts of Helmand given confidence to insurgents around the world and a blueprint for if not defeating, delaying any victory possible.

    In short, have we shown the weakness of state armies? Have we shown our hand and tactics to our potential enemies? Did this give confidence to those oppressed peoples who are now constantly on the news fighting their national armies?

    Please let this not turn into a debate about successes in Afghanistan or Iraq, the question is more about the nature of contemporary conflict outside those theatres and the nature of future conflict in their wake.
  2. The question is an interesting one, but I would say that it's about the character of contemporary conflict rather than the nature of it.

    Truth is I'm not that convinced that the weakness of state armies has much to do with it. Neither Iraq or Afganistan and the experience of the UK/USA forces there is comparable to populations rising up against their state armies who end up fighting on their home turf.

    I'm also unclear as to what you're referring to as a defeat or what you would class as a 'victory'?

    I suspect that the rise of easily accessible information on the internetshowing precisely how unequal the world really is has more importance in encouraging oppressed populations to rise up.
  3. No, Arab states were always much better at repression than we were. Compare Hama back in the 80s with the second Fallujah, conservatively there's an order of magnitude more dead in the former. Our intelligence was lousy, they had a tout on every corner, there's really no comparison, we are naive fools at this sort of thing.

    If you look at poling data The Arab Street was certainly angered by our little adventure in Iraq enough for it to downgrade Israel as a topic for outrage but what they noticed more was the horrible spectacle of Arabs engaged in an ethno-sectarian civil war. AQ's popularity plummeted as al Jaz screened scenes of mass butcherly in Shia markets. Our nearly helpless flailings were often met with disbelief and taken as complicity in the slaughter. Millions of refugees fled the torturing power tools of JAM. 'It's the memory of that very nasty little war that has kept support for the Baath in Syria relatively strong.
  4. No. The Arab Spring was a result of certain demographic, environmental and Information technology developments, but they were then swept up in ongoing historical processes- What I call the Muslim Wars of Religion. We had almost nothing to do with it.

    Primarily because our role in current events has been about as significant as the Ottoman Empire during the Thirty Years War.
    Just like then, while everyone was busy slaughtering their co-religionists, you got the occasional mass military incursion that caused everyone to sit up for a week, and sometimes sign a temporary truce, but as soon as the unbelievers went away, it was back to normal.

    Islam is still sorting out its theological identity crisis. It's utterly fixated on three issues-
    (In order of frothing-at-the-mouth lunacy)
    1) The Israelis
    2) The Pakistani phobia about India, and their proxy war
    3) The Sunni-Shia feud between the House of Saud and the Mullahs in Tehran.

    The Muslim world can live with the Joos. There's been a settled peace treaty with several nations for years, and quite honestly, what does the average Indonesian Muslim (largest Muslim population on earth) care about the Palestinians? Square root of F***all. No-one likes the Palestinians, even other Palestinians. (and possibly Vanessa Redgrave). No other group has ever backed so many wrong horses.

    The puppetmasters in Pindi have long since lost control of their tools, but they are fairly local-I'm not even going into the Nihilist ancestor worshipping fantasists of AQ.

    No, the really dangerous, most ideological feud isn't 'us vs them'. It's over who runs Mecca, and ultimately who has the most Umma-cred.-The bloated plutocrats of Saud, or the headbanging heretics of Qom.

    The moral of the 20th century is that guerrilla forces can eventually wear out a State army. But the State army can, and will, smash the guerillas to pulp UNLESS THEY ARE EXTERNALLY SUPPORTED by another State actor. Guerrillas and other 'asymmetric' specialists are only useful auxiliaries to a State Army.They do not, and never will, replace it, and they will always be untrustworthy with their own wild card agendas. Which is why all those various militias, brigades and what have you are being shepherded into the camps of Riyadh or Teheran, and fed guns and cash, yet both sides still maintain big, controllable State forces.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. First, your title is wrong. There hasn't been an uprising in Algeria. It was Tunisia.

    Second, it is without a doubt the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan set about a course of events that contributed to the occurrence of the Arab Spring. How? We don't really know yet, but I'm sure it did in so many ways we can't really comprehend. The common trait of each Spring is that they started as unarmed protests to bring about democratisation. In Syria, the FSA only appeared once Asad sent in regular units to start playing 'Duck Hunt' using civilians. They have most certainly used the knowledge acquired from the two insurgencies to form their TTPs to balance their lack of firepower with the regime's forces.

    But the way you phrase your question doesn't give much agency to the protestors, activists and fighters in the Middle Eastern countries. It also makes it seem like everyone is a fundamental Islamic insurgent, which is blatantly wrong.
  6. Blimey, been reading your Bernard Lewis much? What's going on is far more than religion, it's a power-play between Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Just because it is expressed in terms of religion doesn't mean that's what it is.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. What the unutterable **** does that mean?
  8. I am hedging my bets in the long term on a multi nation Sunni/Shia show down that will devide Persia and the Arabs well and truly, I don't think we have seen the end of the Arab Vs Persian civil war in Iraq by a long way either.

    Thats our fault for drawing lines around bit's of the world and the empire and calling them countries with out consulting who lived there first.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Yes- In exactly the same way that the European Wars of Religion were also power plays between The Habsburgs, the French and other players who came along for the ride. The common man doesn't fight for an improved trade treaty or the king's right to tax or rights to extort South America- He fights for God, and against the Ungodly- Jihad! Deus Vult! Burn them all-God will know his own!

    Nation states out there are entirely identified by their religious identity. Many areas have weak national identities, so explicitly claim religious authority. Therefore, each power play becomes identified with a particular sectarian position.
    Question- when the authority of the State is explicitly based on its religious affiliation- At what point does the State's action become the State's and not the Religions? With no separation of Church and State, where do you draw the line?
  10. Muslims would say there's no line you just made it up because the Christian Church got over mighty. In historic practice in their system kings rule with the guidance and approval of the Ulema. Saudi still embodies this, Iran's velayat-e faqih is an aberration and Turkey with it's soft Islamism or Pakistan dominated by an Islamic but actually more nationalist army are new forms of the old idea. An there is no nation state, all Muslims are one big happy rainbow family in the Caliphate, except they are not and throughout Muslim history national interests pretty much trumps Allah in practice.

    Just to stretch the Thirty Years War analogy Richelieu stitched up his fellow Papists by aligning France with the Prod powers in order to trump the Habsburgs and further French national interests by fragmenting the Germans.

    Sectarian alignment in the Middle East is no more certain than that, after all we have probably the anti-semitic Arab state Saudi, aligned with the Jews, who where previously allies with the Shah and Qom backing the Pal version of the very Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. It's all as unlikely as the once screamingly anti-semitic Americans fervently backing the Jewish State. Cardinal Richelieu would have been very much at home amongst the Ayatollahs in dusty Qom.
  11. Don't forget good old fashioned racism. I've never met more virulently racist (in terms of good old fashioned skin colour) than some very devout Muslims I've worked with. The Arabs don't like the Persians, who don't like the Pakistanis, none of whom like the Afghans, etc.etc. No one likes the Kurds, and everyone north of Aden thinks the black African Muslims are only good for enslaving.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. In response to the question, IMHO, no. What one must realize is that these countries had been under dictatorships for decades, and as such the people were mighty pissed off and up for a fight. If an example had been set by Afghanistan and Iraq it would have all kicked of a lot sooner.

    Sent from my iPod touch using ARRSE app
  13. Oh this looks like the start of a cracking thread =D

    And it has my favourite people on ARRSE thinking out loud, I like reading your stuff ladies/gents.



    From the zealots against the Romans (we'll not mention Masada, quite why all getting slotted is a triumph I don't know. Deffo a bit "Life of Brian" with the crack suicide squad, "That showed them!") to the Hejaz and one TE Lawrence, unconvential warfare seems made for this part of the world.

    You'd have to be a loon to engage in conventional battles, surely.

    The new bit is this:
    New media means the "enboldening" can happen. I don't want to get into the role of faceache in the Awakening, of course it had a role. Yet, when you have the diasporia skyping information about Syria or YouTubing Shia being fired upon in Bahrain-the "revolutionary" potential is there like never before. It is however, surely old wine in new bottles?

    I don't like the term "radicalisation", bit like walking up to a bloke on the Falls Road and saying "You know, you've just been taken in by a complex historical fairy tale". I think we'd not be quite so blunt there, so really we shouldn't make that assumption with brown people (which is what HMG does seem in danger of doing, IMHO).

    But the empowering, emboldening potential of social media means a version of truth can be beamed almost anywhere, probably live (or death) time. So civil unrest isn't really surprising, what is surprising is it took so long?

    I once saw a briefing given by a real old School RUC SB gentleman which was incredibly insightful, as well as very funny.

    In short, he didn't like the P-word. Not "provisionals" (though I'm fairly sure he had a view or two there), but Partition.

    He did a bit of a demo for less historically minded colleagues on "why partition is such a good idea", and then did a whistle stop of Ireland, Palestine, India/Pakistan and rolled it into decolonisation issues.

    I think it was one of those "You had to be there", loads of laughter turning into thoughtful faces which was good.

    (I won't plug my favourite book on the subject here, you know it probably I've been mentioning it every other post and someone's going to ram it down my throat-but you know you want to read it).

    In short, this:
    Bloody good question to set a Phd.

    But as others have said, perhaps one should seperate national repressive govt from Western activity.

    The reason I say that is otherwise, one risks falling into the world view of AQ where you have the near enemy (repressive, reactionary and "Un-Islamic" governments) who are proped up by the far enemy (the perfidious west)? One feeds the other, which may not neccessarily be so?

    I look forward to others thinking.
  14. The funny thing is we always seem to need to make these things to be "about us". Ordinary Arabs really don't spend much of their time obsessing on our shabby doings or even the squalid squabble with Israelis. Most Egyptians have different day to day concerns like putting bread on the table in a rentier state run by a thieving military.

    And its the soaring price bread that probably had the biggest impact on the Arab unrest, commodity speculators on Wall St played a more significant role than the peripheral actions of the Pentagon. As the squeeze of hunger approaches folk get brave and get out on the street in order to get a bigger slice of the pie. The labor unions in Egypt were far more important than the social media our dazed MSM focused on. And at back of it all the millitary had a succession crisis to deal with and was quite happy to facilitate unrest.
  15. Spot on. I think after 9/11 we misinterpreted the Middle East's mild frustrations with the US/West etc. etc. as Al-Qaeda levels of hatred. As you point out, apart from those living in Iraq and Afghanistan most Middle Easterners had a lot more things to worry about. In many ways, it was an anger by association - Egyptians who hated Mubarak were angry that the US supported him. However, not all are Salafist-esque radicals who want to expel every modicum of American culture from the country. They pray 5 times a day, but they still enjoy modern comforts where they can afford them.

    It's hard to appreciate even the modicum of frustration that people in the Middle East have to deal with on a day-to-day basis because of the region's screwed up politics. The tiniest errands that would take 30 mins in Britain extend into a ridiculous bureaucracy. Some states are better than others, but at the moment. As Hector pointed out also, the change is also demographic - you had a young, tech-savvy population that was fed up with the lack of opportunity, cronyism and corruption and knew they were missing out on so much more.

    I think part of the Arab-Israeli anger is a lot to do with jealousy. Tel Aviv is really without parallel in the Levant and Israel has seen economic success that Arabs can only dream of. Whilst Israel was essentially handed its democratic system on a plate, it has still shown that democracy actually gets shit done (contrary to popular belief). Even in Beirut, whose downtown is awash with Porsche Carreras, Hummers, Armani shops and the Four Seasons, the political system is so screwed up the government can't power the rest of the city properly despite repairing the power stations after 2006. How can you run a successful business when you have a 3 hour scheduled blackout every day (usually with another unscheduled later on in the day)? The downtown area is usually pretty safe because they are rich enough to ensure that their power runs 24/7, but just imagine every part of London except Westminster losing power for 3 hours a day. A country can't function like that.

    In response to the OP, my first reply may have been slightly harsh but people forget that the Middle Eastern armies have all played different roles in the Arab Springs. In Tunisia, the army had historically stayed out of Ben Ali's politics and took pride in their professionalism. Hence when Ben Ali tried to get them to start shooting protestors, the army told him to piss off. Ben Ali then fled to Saudi then next day. In Libya, the army had actually been decimated by Ghaddafi, who relied mostly on militias to from his coercive arm. The army was based in Benghazi and quickly sided with the opposition once the ball started to get rolling.

    My point about not understanding how Iraq and Afghanistan shaped the Arab Spring is that we still don't really know how to put ourselves in the shoes of your average Tunisian/Libyan/Egyptian/Syrian/Yemeni/Bahraini. Consequently, it is difficult for us to understand what events impacted people's daily lives and their thoughts. We are far one-dimensional when it comes to the Middle East, as we tend to see every development from a security-centric point of view. We place so much emphasis on AQ's role in the Spring, when really they are struggling to make themselves seem relevant. The Springs have actually shown that AQ was struggling to keep up with what was going on, and really showed it isn't a particularly important actor in the wider Middle East.