Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

To hell with heroes

Doaa El-Bey focuses on Egypt’s constitutional crisis and Gamal Nkrumah sees what Arabs want and what they don’t like

Arab press
Arab press
Al-Ahram Weekly

What do the Arabs want? The question crops up in almost every editorial. What the Arabs do not want is crystal clear. They want democracy, peace and prosperity. But it is hard to know how the Arabs hope to reconcile these more often than not conflicting aims and objectives. It is still harder to discern the ultimate goal of attempting to marry democracy and an Islamist form of government.

Editor-in-Chief of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat Ghassan Charbel in his column entitled ‘We are fed up of heroes’ sums up many of these dilemmas. Charbel is acutely conscious that Arabs do not want the type of hero of yesteryear that so dazzled and inspired the masses. The Arab world’s change of mind regarding the adoration of bygone heroes is born of twin failures.

First, the heroes failed to deliver. Yes, they did liberate their people temporarily from colonialism and neo-colonialism. And, the heroes did work towards lifting the standards of living of the masses and ensuring social justice and advancements in the status of women and the disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society.

However, the heroes did then succumb to the grievous error of vanity as they deluded themselves into thinking that they could take on the United States and the imperialist powers of the time. The setbacks were so devastating that the Arab collective psyche instinctively shied away from adoring charismatic strongmen.

“Each time a leader speaks about the greatness of his country, I become afraid,” Charbel confesses. “I become afraid each time a leader speaks about his county’s exceptional contribution to civilisation, and when he opens history’s safe and takes out medals and bones, praising the courage of the warriors, and their dedication to defend the country,” Charbel sums up.

In an obvious reference to the Islamists who aspire in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring to replace the “heroes” of yesteryear and to engineer a renaissance, Charbel wrote, “Arabs do not want their governments to take them to Paradise. They do not want their governments to guide them to the path that takes them there either. Governments do not have that kind of responsibilities or duties. The Arabs have much less demands,” Charbel notes.

And, who says the Arabs do not know what they want? “They want clean water, because they are tired of drinking contaminated water. They want bread made from flour that has not been tampered with. They want judges who do not fabricate charges, and policemen who do not assault the weak,” Al-Hayat editor-in-chief stresses.

“They want governments that are accountable. They want governments that do not encourage or cover-up corruption. We are tired of heroes who bear the torch and only address history,” Charbel concluded.

Syria, as usual, featured prominently in the Arab press. There was some difference, however, on the way the different pundits tackled the Syrian question. Most concluded that the Syrian regime’s days are numbered. Some had faith in the Syrian opposition, but others were more cynical about the opposition’s presumptions.

Writing in Al-Hayat, Mustafa Zein, in an article entitled ‘Cleansing the Syrian opposition’, was rather critical of the tactics used by the Syrian opposition forces to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

“The Syrian opposition, before starting the process of systematically destroying state and society, was subjected to many American and European experiments to determine its member’s individual ability to confront the regime,” Zein extrapolated.

The writer further decried the manner in which outside forces made puppeteers of the Syrian opposition forces. The strategies deployed by the Syrian opposition forces are ineffective and divisive.

“Intelligence services have come to the conclusion that the failure of the Syrian National Council (SNC) at its task became apparent in its inability to have an effective presence on the ground in the lack of compliance of armed groups to any of its decisions and in the prevailing chaos in terms of funding and armament within the ranks of the opposition,” Zein explained. He noted with much regret that the SNC has not displayed the bravado to lead a post-Assad Syria.

“The fact is the failure of both experiences — the ‘council’ and the ‘coalition’ — reflects the reality on the ground. Indeed, the ‘Jihadists’ seek to eliminate any party or sect that would oppose their law. The Muslim Brotherhood is fighting for Syria to join its ‘spring’ and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is made up of fragments of defectors and civilians who have no goal but to topple the regime,” Zein lamented.

He was particularly furious at the lack of ideological conviction or political cohesion within the ranks of the FSA. This lack of direction might eventually lead to disastrous consequences, the writer warned. “The FSA is not affiliated to any particular side, and indeed its officers receive financial and military assistance on the basis of their individual prowess in the battlefield. They thus resort to destroying everything in their path in order to prove their ability to benefactors,” Zein grimly concluded.

The Syrian opposition does not know what it wants save to get rid of Al-Assad and his henchmen, but is happy to discuss the post-Assad situation in international forums.

There was also much concern about a political settlement in Syria. Tarek Al-Homayed writing in the pan-Arab London-based Asharq Al-Awsat compared unfavourably the situation in Syria and Yemen. In an article entitled ‘Syria… the Yemen deal but distorted’ Al-Homayed observed that while the Yemenis were able to work out a bargain that kept the ex-president of Yemen in the country, the Syrians were incapable of concluding any such deal.

“For Al-Assad to step down and stay in Syria, along the lines of Ali Abdallah Saleh who stayed in Yemen, is truely unacceptable. Thus it is clear from the Russian stance now, whatever the Russians say, that Moscow has begun to lose hope in the resilience of the Al-Assad regime, and has begun to realise that there is no point to stand by a loser,” Al-Homayed observed.

The allegations that have been made by the columnist ring true. The Russians have a vested interest in Syria, home base of their Mediterranean fleet.

The counter-arguments that Russia cannot hang on indefinitely to a sinking ship are by no means hollow.

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