In the fifties, President Eisenhower first referred to an idea that eventually became ‘the domino theory’: if one country falls to Com-munism, others nearby would too, like a standing row of dominoes. The United States failed to counter the Chinese Revolution, (wondering when it was too late ‘Who lost China’, but redoubled its efforts to maintain Korea and Vietnam in the Western camp, only half successfully.
I haven’t heard anyone mention dominoes yet in the Egyptian crisis, but the idea is as relevant in the Middle East now as it was in the Far East fifty years ago. Starting in Tunisia, which had been ruled for decades by a strongman, and within weeks spreading to Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon, the Middle East’s middle classes are finally determined to catch up with the rest of the world and secure a voice in their governance.
Analysts fear Jordan and Syria may be next, but most seem to have got it right, except when they warn against the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power. Only one or two commentators seem to know that this foundational organization of Islamist revolt is today more like the governing party of Turkey than it is like the Taliban.
And here is where the old domino theory and the new one coincide: in the fifties, in the Far East, coolies were revolting against feudal land-lords; today, the working and lower middle class of the Middle East orga-nize on Twitter against a klepto-corporatocracy with an international reach that keeps them in a position of democratic or material deprivation that is as intolerable in today’s world as feudalism was in the nineteen fifties.
The voices of reason with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood need to be heard: poverty – or the perception of relative deprivation – has always been at the root of every human revolt. And whether it be the Brotherhood or organizations it has inspired such as Hamas and Hez-bollah, all emulate the Marxist guerilla program of concrete assistance to the needy, through schools, clinics, or cash payments.
A few American analysts are beginning to realize that it’s depri-vation that drives young people into the arms of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and Secretary Clinton and the President are unequivocal in calling for ‘free and fair’ elections in Egypt.
They are also suggesting that this an opportunity for Israel to settle the Palestinian question once and for all. Will Israel be content to allow the Stuxnet virus to hobble Iran’s nuclear program, and concentrate on picking its way through the field of dominos to become a helpful member of a modernizing Middle East community?