First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations.
The various “color” and “flower” revolutions that have been taken place around the globe recently, in places like Georgia, the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, seems to be intricately connected to the workings of various American international NGOs. Moreover, the activities of these NGOs seem to reflect in many ways certain shifts in the US foreign policy and interests, and, in turn, the success or failure of the various revolutions seems to reflect these shifts as well. This is why the political convulsions of Uzbekistan (May 2005) and Azerbaijan (November 2005), for instance, did not result in such revolutions.
This is the essence of the analysis presented by Sreeram Chaulia in the recent article “Democratisation, NGOs and “colour revolutions.” The points made in the article are neither new nor surprising; this also applies to the tone of indignation involved in the analysis. Still, the article does flesh out the current context of the “third wave” of democratization currently sweeping across the globe.
But, and as usual in such analysis, the article fails to point out the lack of viable and realistic alternatives to the peoples in the countries under consideration. Caught between authoritarian regimes and imploding societies, with continuous dabbling by external powers in their internal affairs, the choices that civil society groups and opposition movements in these countries have tend to be pretty limited. In fact, the situation boils down to having to make a choice between breaking the political and socioeconomic stalemate in cooperation with external powers, or settling for more of the same under the existing inept regimes.
A search for a third alternative seems to be the prerogative of large states such as China and India, or coalition of states, such as the ASEAN countries, not of dismembered entities ruled by corrupt authoritarian and inept regimes that seem to be completely cut off from the rapidly ever changing realities around them.
Indeed, some countries seem to be jumping too late on the bandwagon of modernization and development, and at a time when foreign dabbling continues to be a fact of everyday life. Whatever the reasons for this delay, the fact of it limits their choices. Unless they could together a la ASEAN and empower themselves through some kind of regional economic and political cooperation and joint security arrangements, a development that is quite unlikely under existing leaderships, the only realistic choices that opposition movements seem to have tend to involve some substantive degree of support and coordination with foreign powers, in particular, the United States.
Moreover, one of the major factors that seem to have facilitated acceptance of this alternative by the opposition movements in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus must be the lack of popular anti-American feelings in the countries involved, unlike the situation in the Middle East, where anti-Americanism runs deep in people’s souls, for a variety of reasons, including past support for dictatorial regimes and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Showing indignation vis-à-vis American imperialist dabbling in other people’s affairs is the prerogative of peoples and countries that have at least achieved a certain degree of modernization and seems capable of being able to guide such a process forward for the foreseeable future. This is not the situation in the Middle East. Indignation has no role to play here. A heavy dose of pragmatism and Real Politick will do much better instead, not only in dealing with the US and the EU, but also in dealing with the internal ethnic, religious and ideological diversity that shapes the lives of most countries in the region.
People often preach real politick at the United States, but they fail to see that real politick considerations are the main driving force behind the choices that some opposition movements in the countries involved are making. The movements are aware of the intentions of the US, but they are also aware of the necessity of breaking through the stalemate.