The ruler's survival and the state's demise

The ruler's survival and the state's demise
4 min read
24 Mar, 2015
Comment: The idea of "the state" is collapsing across the Arab world, in every country in which the people have risen up against corrupt, ineffectual rulers.
When the people revolt, states totter [AFP]
Among the many challenges that face the Middle East, the survival of statehood is perhaps the most pressing and dangerous.

The collapse of the state is not a new phenomenon in the region, as Somalia has not been a functioning state for the past 25 years, and Iraq has been a semi-federal state since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. It developed into a semi-failed state since the 2003 US-led invasion.

However, approximately two years ago, the state began to look under threat. Its collapse or disintegration has now become the rule and not the exception.

Despite the varying causes and the divergent degrees of deterioration from one country to another, the salient feature of the Middle East is the threat to the state.

The collapse or disintegration of the state has now become the rule and not the exception.

Some threats started as internal conflicts that drained the state's resources, especially the human, economic and military resources before developing into all-out war, such as the case in Syria.

Another threat to the state was posed by armed struggles for power portrayed as a struggle for legitimacy, such as the case in Libya.

A third form of threat posed to the state was due to the confusion and vacillation between revolution and the state, whether due to battles across the country - such as in Yemen - or due to a political crisis, social divisions and widespread yet ineffective violence, such as the case in Egypt.

In other cases, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain and Sudan, the state can barely ensure its survival given the general deterioration and their lack of sovereignty and independence from outside interference - in addition to the breakdown of internal institutions and policies.

Looking at the regional map, it is perhaps easier for an observer to list the countries that are not threatened with collapse, namely Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait - only a quarter of all Arab states.

The disintegration of states

The rapid development and spread of this phenomenon could exacerbate the situation through the further disintegration of the countries under threat, and by the phenomenon gradually moving to countries that had so far been protected against collapse.

This means that Arab states in the region are on the verge of returning to an era of sectarian nations. The first step in avoiding that disastrous fate is to identify the reasons which had led Arab states to the verge of collapse.

Arab states have been and continue to be destroyed by the deceptive warnings of rulers against demands for change.

It is important to note that this is a threat only faced by Arab states in the region, as the threat of collapse is not present in Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia, Uganda, Chad or even Israel.

Therefore, this threat does not relate to economic weakness or political circumstance, but the degree to which the population accepts both the economic and political reality of their country.

Thus, the threat of collapse has only been present in countries that have witnessed a popular movement to regain freedom and dignity.

In those countries, the rulers wear the cloaks of mystics, foresee the future and warn against any demands for reform, as they would "threaten" the state. They do not, however, perform any miracles, as mystics might, to avert that danger.

Those rulers punish their populations for daring to think of changing or reforming the regimes and persecute any dissent under the excuse that opposition or attempts to reform are necessarily acts of state sabotage, as if the state is reduced to the personhood of the ruler.

The details and specifics are different from one state to another, however the essence is the same: Arab states have been and continue to be destroyed by the deceptive warnings of rulers against demands for change, as they would lead to the collapse of the state.

Rulers see themselves as the state, so it is either them, or no state at all.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.