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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 01/19/2011

Tunisia's popular revolution far from settled

By Jennifer Rubin

The Jasmine Revolution is a work in progress, to say the least. Khairi Abaza of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies put it this way: "The regime is trying to make a cosmetic change to stay in power, the unity government is falling apart and the streets don't seem to let go."

Among the changes yesterday were the resignation of the interim president, Fouad Mabzaa, and Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi from the ruling party (Constitutional Democratic Rally). Meanwhile, opposition figures in exile are vowing to oppose a government that includes former members of Ben Ali's government:

Moncef Marzouki, an exiled opposition leader and presidential hopeful, on Monday branded his country's new government a "masquerade" still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist declared.

"Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the CRD," Marzouki said. . . .

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the so-called unity government.

He expressed anger at the exclusion, but said his party would consider joining the government if asked to do so.

As all of this is going on, order has not been re-established on the streets, as thousands protested and police resorted to tear gas in Tunis. In sum, the opposition and citizenry want a complete break with the past, while remnants of the Ben Ali government are struggling to hold on.

Now a final note: The left blogosphere seems to have wigged out over the suggestion that George W. Bush and the successful emergence of a secular, democratic Iraq has anything to do with all this. For starters, it is amusing to see that those voices, fresh from the smear on conservatives regarding the Arizona shooting, are now all about "causation." But more seriously, had democracy failed in Iraq, had the country descended into chaos, and had Iraqis laboring for a secular, democratic Muslim country been killed and exiled, do we imagine this would have been good for the prospects of democracy elsewhere? Recall that it was the left that said that democracy was alien to the Middle East. Bush was right; they were wrong. And the notion that democratization and rebellion against despotic regimes do not spread regionally after a successful experiment is belied by history (e.g. Central America, Eastern Europe).

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 19, 2011; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

How embarrassing for the WaPo.

Does Rubin actually believe what she wrote in the last paragraph? Rubin writes as if Iraq is Vermont and not a failed state. Noted lefty GEN Petraeus noted "I've repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel."

When Rubin writes: "Recall that it was the left that said that democracy was alien to the Middle East. Bush was right; they were wrong." Who on the left claimed this? I can certainly recall Daniel Pipes, someone who is a bit to the right of Jesse Helms arguing this very point.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 19, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Democracy is alien to the Middle East, China, Russia, parts of Africa, bits of Latin America - actually it seems as if democracy is alien to about 50% of the world. Corruption is even more entrenched.
Most days, I think the ONLY nations that serve as role models are Finland and Canada.

As if al-Maliki did not do everything he could to stay on as strong-man of Iraq after what appeared to be a real election.
What kind of "secular democracy" now has Iraqi Christians fleeing the Kurdish areas for Turkey?

No one should hold Iraq as any kind of influence on what is happening in Tunisia.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 19, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

"Recall that it was the left that said that democracy was alien to the Middle East. Bush was right; they were wrong"

That's a very confusing conclusion, since democracy only exists in Iraq because of tens of thousands of US soldiers, just as it only exists in Turkey because of the committment of their military to suppress the fundamentalist elements of their society.

Also it's hard to see how you can make the above statement and yet rail against the democratic elections of Syrian/Iranian influenced parties in Lebanaon, and Hamas in Gaza. Apparently you want to specific result, not an actual messy democracy.

Finally, it's hard to see why you can give the out of office Bush administration credit for an influence over events several years down the road into the Obama administration, but insist, often in the same column that the things you don't like today are all virginally Obama's fault, as if the world began on January 2009.

If the problems in China, North Korea, Iran and the peace process are the fault of the Obama administration, then logically the victory, as you would say, in Tunisia and the release of Aung Sang Ki also belong to the Obama and not Bush administration.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 19, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"But more seriously, had democracy failed in Iraq, had the country descended into chaos, and had Iraqis laboring for a secular, democratic Muslim country been killed and exiled, do we imagine this would have been good for the prospects of democracy elsewhere?"

This is hilarious. Iraq had a secular government before the invasion. Now, to the extent there are functioning security forces, they enforce Shiite Sharia Law.

Although that point is somewhat moot since Iraq is basically a failed state.

I have not heard much on the left to indicate they understand why this is so, but it does not surprise Conservatives.

Democracy leads to extremism and instability.

That is why the Founders did NOT create a Democracy in the United States. The United States is a Republic.

A real Conservative would never use the word Republic and Democracy interchangeably.

I have my doubts about the Washington Post. They tend towards partisanship and label certain people "Conservatives" who are nothing of the sort. Then when these anti-Conservatives utter something patently absurd, the Post uses them as a why to discredit Conservatism.

It you want the Conservative perspective on Iraq and Afghanistan, check out "The American Conservative" web site or the CATO institute web site.

Posted by: SteveJ4 | January 19, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

File away this headline for Jennifer's column until she writes it sometime later this year.

"Islamic fundamentalist ascendency in Tunisia is caused by Obama failure to support nascent deomcracy movement championed by Bush administration, NOT a result, as liberals assert, of Tunisians actually voting for Islamic parties."

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 19, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Tunisia staged a revolution without a US invasion and occupation. Imagine that!

It may or may not turn into a democracy--time will tell.

Bush had nothing to do with it, which probably bodes well for its success.

Posted by: muckamuck | January 19, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin, that last paragraph demonstrates your love of strawmen and logical fallacies. This, for example: "The left blogosphere seems to have wigged out over the suggestion that George W. Bush and the successful emergence of a secular, democratic Iraq has anything to do with all this." manages to combine both strawmen (not one specific example cited of the left blogosphere "wigging out", thus the strawman argument, and demonstrating not a scintilla of evidence that the invasion of Iraq led to the Jasmine Revolution. Not one. We grown-ups, Ms. Rubin refer to that logical fallacy as post hoc ergo propter hoc.

The Wapo had better hope Kaplan can keep generating revenue as the quality of the commentary - with a very few exceptions - is bound to drive the paper into the toilet.

Posted by: Randinho | January 19, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

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