Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tunisia: Bruce Maddy-Weitzman's Analysis

By Barry Rubin

If you are interested in what's happening with Tunisia and why that country has a chance of making it democratically, read Bruce Maddy-Weitzman's article in Middle East Forum. He suggests four key reasons for optimism on Tunisia:

1.a compact, well-defined national entity with a particular history as an open Mediterranean trading country, and thus a strong collective sense of self;

2.a modernization process that produced a substantial, educated middle class, the highest rate of female literacy and lowest rate of population growth in the Arab world, and a systematic effort to raise the status of women, including the banning of polygamy (no other Arab country has dared to explicitly do so, as it contradicts the Qur'an);

3.a tradition of active civil society, particularly labor unions and the bar association; and

4.a small-sized, non-politicized military, whose chief of staff, Rachid Ammar, pointedly refused Ben Ali's directive to fire on protestors, instead acting to control policemen, security and intelligence personnel, and affiliated thugs. He also turned aside any suggestion that he and his fellow officers, and not civilians, assume control of the country.

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