Tonight a column by Fouad Ajami caught my eye in the WSJ. “Autocracy and the Decline of the Arabs” told the sad tale of a society that’s been in the ditch out of action since the early 1980s. He speaks of “the Arab Rip Abu Winkle, awakening from a slumber to find the same tyrants still in control: Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gadhafi in Libya. Oh, and Assad’s son running the show in Syria.
The United Nations Development program ranks countries by government revenues as percentage of GDP, which are about 13% in third world countries. But in Libya, 68%, Saudi Arabia, 45%, and 40% in Algeria , Kuwait and Qatar. That means that most of the money is not made by private business, but by government, and in these cases it was from oil. To create the 51 million jobs these countries need, they’d have to change their approach rapidly, to say the least.
Ajami continues with his critique of a society that looks with envy on neighboring Iran, where people have seriously protested their downtrodden status quo. One Egyption political activist said you could count the number of activists willing to protest there on one hand. The feisty Iranian pushback is gaining them fans among restless Arabs, he said.