The Arab world has got into a boiling cauldron. After Tunisia and Egypt, the fragrance of the Jasmine has spread across the entire Middle East and North Africa. Seemingly stable and liberal regimes in Morocco, Oman and Bahrain are now finding themselves sinking, rapidly, in quicksand.
The Jasmine revolution makes for a number of interesting observations. I would start with the lighter and the spicier ones!
Firstly, power was the elixir that ensured the longevity of the geriatric rulers in the Arab world. Sample this, can you imagine working in any corporate well into your 80s? The answer would be a no. Hosni Mubarak is 83, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is 87, Sultan Qaboos of Oman is 70. Many of these geriatrics suffer from multiple ailments - cancer, diabetes, paralysis - ailments that could potentially incapacitate them from using their basic faculties for normal existence, yet they governed their countries as fiefdoms, governed with impunity and without any sense of shame. Such has been the craving, the love for power that once Hosni lost power, he lost his mojo -- he slipped into a deadly coma, as some newsreports suggest. Power is obviously the elixir for longevity -- this also seems to be true for a lot of geriatric Indian politicians as well!
Secondly, the despots may be despots, but they served a purpose, much like the jokers in a pack of cards. They, for a few decades, did give a semblance of stability and peace in a region, worse than any minefield. But more importantly, their antics and rants entertained the world. Their virility was the subject of a huge speculation, like the gossip on Colonel Gaddafi and his trusted "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, and his 40-member female bodyguard contingent, known as the Amazonian Guard. These bodyguards are said to be recruited from Cuba and are all said to be either virgins or lesbians(?). Gaddafi's eccentricities are legendary - travelling with a camel to France, while on a state visit and pitching a heated tent, on the grounds of a Paris hotel, because Bedouin traditions so dictate! On his subsequent state visit to Italy, he went about fishing in Silvio Berlusconi's bunga-bunga harem - he invited 500 glamorous women to covert to Islam - apparently these women were lured with €70 each through a modelling agency! This reminds me of a one-liner, on the sex-escapades and virility of our geriatric N.D. Tiwari, that I had come across long back on Twitter, which is also apt for oldies like Berlusconi and Gaddafi -- "They give all men hope for their future!!!!" Perhaps, power is their viagra, that keeps them going into their twilight years!
Thirdly, common enemies can make strange bedfellows. Newsreports spoke of an Israeli journalist, Noy Alooshe, spoofing Gaddafi's televised rant of last week into a YouTube hit, which got some accolades from Arabs!
Fourthly, the Kissinger doctrine of "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch" still holds true despite Obama's fancy new(?) world view. The interpretation of democracy is a matter of convenience, it just depends whose son of a bitch you are dealing with. Not very long back, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan had called Gaddafi the Mad Dog of the Middle East, and ordered airstrikes over Tripoli, killing the dictator's baby daughter. Gaddafi then orchestrated the Lockerbie bombing and other acts of terror. In the 2000s, he became George W. Bush's "son of a bitch". Gaddafi was locked into a tight embrace with the United States. Condoleezza Rice then travelled to Libya, conferred with him in a Bedouin tent, got "lovingly" called Leezza, gave the Mad Dog the aura of a statesman and came back with gifts worth USD 212,000, afterall, Gaddafi had become Bush's "son of a bitch" or perhaps his poodle!!!!! And when the Hosni regime was on the verge of falling, the Obama administration got into an intense engagement with the Saudi royalty on getting democracy restored in Egypt. The Saudis cannot be termed as democrats by any stretch of imagination, but they are the Americans' "sons of bitches". Jemima Goldsmith (the ex-wife of the Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan -- I always wondered how a Pakistani feudal fundamentalist could ever, ever marry a Jewish heiress???? Lucre or lust, you decide!) tweeted saying "Obama conferring with the Saudis on the democratic transition in Egypt, is like asking a vegetarian how to cook prime rib." Wow!!!! The world needs a few lessons in the Saudi style of democracy, it seems!!! But they are Uncle Sam's "sons of bitches", afterall; democracy be damned!!!!!
Fifthly, while the fragrance of the Jasmine is contagious, it reopens some festering wounds. Notably among them are the Sunni - Shiite rift, which is now out in the open. How this affects terror outfits is an open question. Even the might of the Chinese state may be humbled by the wafting Jasmine fragrance across Silk Route. Already, the Great Firewall of China has blocked out any news on Egypt and Jasmine. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter which were used to propagate the fragrance have been blocked, but a Twitter clone, Sina.com is still on and is reportedly being used, alongwith an unblocked LinkedIn, as the media to propagate dissent, reportedly through code language. So economic upliftment by itself may not be enough without some real power to the people. That should make the Indian political dynasties uneasy, for they do not change, we too could have a messy time ahead!