“Right now, socially, we are disintegrating.”
So says Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and potential candidate for president of Egypt.
Indeed, post-revolutionary Egypt appears to be coming apart.
Since the heady days of Tahrir Square, Salafis have been killing Christians. Churches have been destroyed. Gangs have conducted mass prison breaks. The Muslim Brotherhood brims with confidence.
And demands are rising for the prosecution and execution of former president Hosni Mubarak.
“People do not feel secure,” says ElBaradei, “They are buying guns.” And as Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times write, it is not only Egypt’s future that is in doubt.
“(I)n the past weeks, the specter of divisions — religion in Egypt, fundamentalism in Tunisia, sect in Syria and Bahrain, clan in Libya — has threatened uprisings that once seemed to promise to resolve questions that have vexed the Arab world since the colonialism era.”
Can the Arab revolts cope with “the cacophony of diversity … the Arab world’s variety of clans, sects, ethnicities and religions?”
Or will we witness the disintegration of nations like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as we did Ethiopia and the Sudan — and of African, Latin American, Asian and European nations, as well?
With the end of the Cold War in 1991, it seemed the world was moving toward unity. The post-Cold War era saw the expansion of the European Union, NAFTA and GATT, the creation of a World Trade Organization, the Rome Treaty for the prosecution of war crimes, the Kyoto Protocol, and the G-7 expand to the G-8 and then to the G-20.
Nations seemed to be coming together to solve global problems.
Today, nations seem everywhere to be coming apart.
Is the future more likely to bring deepening global integration, or continued disintegration, as we saw with the collapse and breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into 24 nations, separated along the lines of ethnicity, culture and faith?
What America has on offer to the world is democratic pluralism.
Unlike the Founding Fathers and every generation before 1960, all of which sought to keep us European and Christian, we declare to the world that diversity — religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, the more the better — is now the American ideal.
In 1960, 97 percent of all Americans spoke English. Today, we take pride in the fact that Americans speak hundreds of languages.
China, the emergent rival power, fears diversity, as it portends inevitable division. It thus represses religious and ethnic minorities — Christian and Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians. China offers the world another face, the face of the ethno-national state of Han Chinese. Like Korea, Japan and the other Asian nations, China is closed to immigrants.
Looking to the Middle East today, half a year into the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia, we see Libyan tribes standing by Moammar Gadhafi against Benghazi and the east, and Muslims attacking Christians in Egypt.
In Syria, the Alawite Shia minority, to which President Bashar Assad belongs, speaks with terror of a seizure of power by Sunni, whose slogan is, “Christians to Beirut and Alawites to the coffin.”
In Bahrain, the monarchy is Sunni, the majority Shia, and that is the dividing line. In Iraq, it is Arab, Kurd and Turkmen, Shia majority vs. Sunni minority, Muslim against Christian.
One half of Iran is Persian, the other half Arab, Kurd, Azeri and Baluch. In Afghanistan, the Pashtun majority in the center and south have historically dominated the Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara.
Is the greater likelihood that the Arab nations, riven by rebellion and revolution, will become democracies, or that they will disintegrate along religious, ethnic and tribal lines?
Indeed, where is the democratic model for the Middle East?
There is none. Lebanon is as close as it comes, but Lebanon has been disintegrating for decades. And then there is Turkey, an ethno-national state that represses its Kurd minority and is on its way to becoming an Islamic state.
As for a U.S.-British belief in diversity and democracy as the world’s model, as President Obama preached in London, our own democracy is proving incapable of balancing its budgets, or winning its wars, or defending its borders. Our politics are poisonous, and tribalism is rising not disappearing. And it is not autocratic Chinese but a democratic West that is facing devaluations and defaults.
Moreover, as the New Republic writes in “The Great Democracy Meltdown,” it is “democratic meltdowns, not democratic revolutions, that are now the norm.” In its recent annual survey, “Freedom House found that global freedom plummeted for the fifth year in a row, the longest continuous decline in nearly 40 years.”
Why is this happening?
In the 21st century, the call of one’s God and the claims of blood and soil seem more magnetic than the ideologies of the 19th and 20th century: Marxism, socialism or democracy. People do not seem to seek equality with other cultures, faiths and tribes, but a separate existence in nations that are of, by and for themselves alone.