Erzsébet N. Rózsa Arab Awakening, or a New Regional Order
The demonstrations that have swept through the Arab world since mid-December 2010have taken everybody by surprise: domestic, regional and external actors alike. The Arabuprising started at a moment when the Middle East is undergoing a profound re-structuring,and thus it may change not only the course, but also the direction and the context of thedevelopments. While the media is speaking of a “domino effect” we claim that the eventswere not organically and directly interlinked, and although the demonstration effect of the happenings in one country over those in another cannot be underestimated, the Arabcountries have gone a long way along the path of “nation-statehood” and have becomeindependent states with specic, sometimes contrasting interests.The 2011 Arab uprisings (Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, etc.) indicated thebeginning of a new chapter in the newly evolving regional order: they seem to haverestored and re-conrmed the dignity, the self-esteem and to a certain extent the Arab sense of unity. At the same time, they reect a new phase of development in the dualityof the patrimonial system (in the real sphere) and the institutions (of the virtual sphere),in the course of which the inhabitants, rejecting to remain “subjects” only, may – either temporarily or nally – turn into “citizens”. In this new regional order Egypt has got anew chance: political transformation and the constitutional process offer an opportunity,which may make Egypt the unquestionable political leader of the Arab world again. Thus,the Tahrir Square may – in historical terms – become not only the symbol of the 2011 Arabuprisings, but also that of the rise and re-emerging of the Arab world and Egypt.
ransformations following the Cold War have not avoided the Middle East, but theyappeared on three levels: The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant not only theloss of a superpower ally for the “socialist” Arab countries, but the (European)ideology has disappeared as well on which their regimes were based, resulting in a“unipolar” direction of the whole of the region in the sense that in the Middle East contextthe US remained the sole superpower. While the EU has played a complementary role,
it could never “grow up” to lling the “superpower vacuum” the Soviet Union left. On
the other hand, although the decline of Arab nationalism is linked to the 1967 defeat byIsrael, the 1990–1991 Gulf War eroded – if not terminated altogether – the myth of Arabunity. While following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the twin towers inNew York, President George W. Bush announced the democratization of the Middle East,it has become increasingly clear that the – possibly never existing – unity of the ArabMiddle East or the “Arab world” has been terminated once and for all. Moreover, theArab countries have – among the “nation-state” borders drawn following the First
World War – started their own, specic development, in the course of which they
have increasingly formulated themselves and their relationship to the others along their
The study has appeared originally: “Arab Awakening, or a New Regional Order Emerging in the
International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs,
Vol. 20. No. 2. (2011). pp.3–20.
19 October 2011