Let us choose our enemies correctly (III and Final) [Archives:2007/1073/Opinion]

August 2 2007

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
Mohammed, the host of the qat session was hopeful that a meaningful finale could be realized from all this discourse on the state of affairs in the world and the region in general and in Yemen in particular: “Where do all of you see as the direction we are all heading? Can't anyone detect a ray of hope?

“My Dear Mohammed, I would not put any bets on a resolution of any of the difficult problems pending in our region until there is a US Administration that can see the world with a wider angle lens than the naive and narrow minded attitude by which American foreign policy has been guided under the Administration of George W. Bush” said Tawfiq, continuing with a strong expression of pessimism on his face: “But even with that actually happening there is a lot that needs to be done in the region as well. There is a sense of deep grounded frustration engrained in the minds of most of the people of the Arab World. The Arab World is in political shambles for the most part, except for the glimmer of hope that came out of Nouakchott, with the exemplary peaceful transformation of authority we saw there a few months ago, thanks to the highly civilized military brass, that Mauritania was blessed with. Even Lebanon, which was supposed to show all the rest of the Arab States how to play political democracy, has been subject to some mis-engineering by outside evils, led by the United States and their Zionist pets, and doggedly supported by local Arab evil of a different gender: archaic regimes that hedge their survival on a combination of tyranny and misguided religious dogma that secures their eternal hold on power and rejects any form of political opposition; traditional regimes that rely on foreign support with some efforts at reforms and sound provision of public service; and military or totalitarian die hard dictatorships that have bled the resources of their respective countries and closed all potentials for the economic sustainability of the overwhelming majority of their subjects. With the deactivation of the politicization of the citizenry after decades of oppressive rule and clampdown of any opposing opinions, not to mention the prevailing occupation of most of the people in the region with seeking to achieve sustenance, having long ago erased any hope of economic prosperity, even with the bountiful wealth that lies underground. With the prevailing apathy amongst the general Arab public, because of the latter among other reasons, there is little reason to expect any major turn soon towards more hopeful prospects.”

Mohammed was not about to allow his qat session to end so dismally: “Notwithstanding all that all of you have said, especially Tawfiq's gloomy immediate outlook, looking back at what Hizbullah did last Summer in the Levant and the continuing knack for survival displayed by this most amazing socio-political phenomenon we have ever seen in this region, I think that all this prevalent pessimism may still have a light beaming at the end of the tunnel. I view this as a ray of hope, despite the mostly groundless image projected of Hezbollah especially in the Western media and by some of the narrow minded Arab political and social establishments that have proven to be a poor match for Hizbullah when it comes to fulfilling the national aspirations and ideological convictions of most of the Arab masses and the successes achieved by the latter when compared with the poor records of most of these establishments and regimes “

The guest also had a comment to add to the closing of the discussion: “Gentlemen, we tend to all agree that it is time that the social contract in our region is given an honest assessment in terms of truly determining how much of it is truly understood by the governed and their respective regimes in the region. Furthermore, we have to re-instill the proper meanings of democratic political practice, with a heavy emphasis on moral and ethical values that are an integral part of democratic behavior and conduct. Right now, most claims of adherence to political rights and freedom in the region are not borne out of conviction but merely lip service and surface dressings that may in the short run disguise the political realities in which we are actually living, but really fool nobody except the claimants themselves.

Tawfiq had the last word, as usual: “There is not really much else that the people can offer or concede in this respect, since they have already lost or conceded so much to their current masters!. One would think that for the most part, it is time that most of the Arab regimes begin to look inward and remember that their obligations are first and foremost to their people, before they are towards any other parties, even themselves. Moreover, there are fundamentals about public service in the modern context, which seem to have left the textbooks and procedural guidelines studied by our government officials and employees, if they were ever there to start with. Finally, it is really about time that government operates with a clear and transparent system for accountability for performance and certainly with less emphasis on reward and greater emphasis on punishment for misconduct, corruption and bad performance, in all their respective manifestations. I can't see any hope unless these are turned into very loud public demands shouted throughout the Arab World, with Uncle Sam minding his own business being an absolute prerequisite necessity. You will be surprised how easily things could get straightened out then.”

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.