Achieving Peace in the Arab World
The world is currently faced with crisis after crisis as different countries try to rebuild their institutions. Dictatorial regimes have been toppled by their own citizens but in some countries, clashes are still going on as different communities fight for the control of crucial resources worth millions of dollars. From Libya, Central African Republic to Syria and Afghanistan, there are reported cases of war. However, one hotspot that has been the subject of international diplomatic activities for some time now is the Arab world. This region is predominantly Islamic and herein lies another problem: the war on terror targets radicals with a Muslim background since they are supporters of the jihad ideology. As an intervention measure to bring peace, a contingent of international security forces were deployed in a country like Iraq to restore normalcy. Others are present in various other countries. While some feel that these troops have been a unifying factor, others think that they have been hugely polarizing (Mockaitis 155). Each country in the Arab world has an army and a police service. Their activities have also come under sharp focus for either praise or criticism. So then, what is the dual role of the security sector in the Arab world as both a source of political stability and instability?
Definitely, they have made considerable progress in peace building but lasting peace and stability has remained elusive in most of these countries. It is not in doubt that there was a time in the Arab world when there was constant cross border fighting and internal strife. Israel and Palestine have been locked in an on and off provocation of war for decades. In addition, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have just come from popular uprisings commonly called “Arab springs” that are threatening the stability of those countries now under revolutionaries. On the other hand, an all out civil war is unfolding in Syria while the Iraq invasion and possible exit of NATO troops still causes jitters a decade after its start. Similarly, Somalia is home to terrorist cells while Sudan is facing off with rebels who want to control the country’s oil export business. All these are examples of Arab world countries that at some point have sought and gained or are denied foreign military assistance in their fight for democracy. However, on some occasions, the foreign troops made forceful entry usually with the help of United Nation’s resolutions (Holsti 42).
The Arab troops have managed to contain an escalation of violence. Most citizens of these countries tend to be sympathetic to their armies and view them as brothers and sisters who understand their pain and are willing to join them whenever they protest against the excesses of an administration. For example, during the January 25, 2011 uprising in Egypt, former president Mubarak had ordered the army to crash the protests by all means necessary. However, the military generals refused to assault the protesters and instead dispersed them using less violent means. In the streets, the protestors chanted songs in praise of the military and repeated the phrase “the people and the army are one” whenever they confronted each other. This shows that the army had real influence and used that as leverage to maintain stability instead of causing further provocation that would have enraged the citizens and plunge the country into further chaos.
The security sector has also stepped in to ensure certain vital normal operations of a country are not interrupted. When the rebels overthrew Ben Ali in Tunisia, some went about looting of even the centuries old artifacts that formed part of a World heritage site. The security apparatus were quick to intervene and managed to secure a sizeable portion of the manuscripts. The secured artifacts were enough to allow some form of continuity in the tourism sector. This is important because Tunisia’s economy relies heavily on revenue generated from tourism and if such plundering of national resources was left to continue, then the economy would flop. This would then have led to massive unemployment or inflation that would make people angry hence more protests and regime changes.
The countries in the Arab world form part of the Arab League. This body is aimed at enabling co-operation on economic, cultural and military affairs among others (Sabri 118). The treaties that they sign are legally binding. Therefore, each country depends on its security division to ensure implementation of government policies. Their relevance was observed when a country had to implement austerity measures that were unpopular with the citizens but necessary in the long term. By providing protection, they ensured a smooth running of government functions and by extension political stability, as they did not tolerate any disruption in the execution of state affairs.
The size and might of a country’s defense forces has always been a source of pride and a bargaining chip to act as a deterrent against any form of external aggression (Bugajski and Teleki 193). The security service officers in the Arab world are no exception. Sometimes, due to proximity and sharing of resources among countries, some view themselves as being obligated to dictate to other smaller countries how they should run their affairs, like the Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait. Some even go as far as sponsoring rival leaders in other countries in order to influence the outcome of elections. These destabilizing machinations are always thwarted with the threat of retaliation incase of a military strike. Therefore, this brings tranquility among neighboring countries. Furthermore, neighboring countries periodically hold joint military exercises in which they exchange ideas and skills on how to deal with enemy combatants.
Likewise, police officers routinely put their lives on the line for the sake of peace (Miller 5). Most of these countries are full of sectarian violence. A few of them are a haven for terrorists whose main agenda is to spread Sharia law everywhere-which can only be achieved by gaining political power. The security officers are tasked to patrol the streets and man roadblocks in order to fish out these dangerous criminals. Although sometimes they are poorly equipped, they actively perform their duties and have been successful in intercepting these criminals before they commit their heinous crimes. With fewer lawbreakers and less bombings in the streets, public confidence is boosted and investors are able to trade. This stable environment would lead to improvement in infrastructure and the general way of life.
In contrast, the security sector has also been a divisive body in some of these Arab countries. This is because they organize and literally participate in coups whereby they declare themselves as the legitimate rulers. For example, the recent ouster of Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood by general Al-Sisi has received widespread condemnation as being a coup. Clashes erupted when that happened as opponents and supporters met. These protests and demonstrations have turned violent and deadly thus Egypt is unstable and now faces an uncertain future. This is a clear indication of the negativity of the sector, which after an initial coup, is always viewed with suspicion because they can never be trusted to be a neutral body.
It is a common practice in almost all countries world wide not to reveal most details about security contracts and budgets for fear of endangering national security. However, some personnel in the security sector have taken advantage of this form of confidentiality to be corrupt and also steal money meant for certain government projects. When these scandals are revealed, the public is up in arms due to the inequality in income levels. Some of these accusations end up bringing down governments or seriously disturbing the prevailing status quo that is critical in promoting development. Iraq under Maliki is a good example. Massive allegations of corruption in the security sector has paralyzed government functions and even almost led to a vote of no confidence in him.
Additionally, in some Arab countries that are undergoing reconstruction like Somalia, the security officers are either abstaining from duty or doing more lucrative tasks during working hours. Some give protection to wealthy individuals for a fee while others engage in business activities when they should be working. This lack of commitment has led to villagers creating their own civilian “police officers” to enhance security in their immediate environs. Eventually, it is these groups of youth who form criminal gangs under the command of a particular warlord and start terrorizing residents and government forces. Depending on their level of organization, financial resources, amount of weapons and their ideology, they could pose a significant risk to the government of the day. This clearly illustrates the danger that lurks incase rogue security officers are left undetected or unsupervised.
On the international scale, there are a few countries that have had foreign troops on their soil-American forces have been to Iraq while NATO troops are contemplating invading Syria. In the case of marines in Iraq, their contribution has been twofold. They are liked by a section of the people and hated in equal measure by others as well. Although not all troops have pulled out of Iraq, during the war they managed to win the hearts and minds of the people and were able to bring relative peace and stability (Ṣabrī 118). Having helped them oust a dictator and initiate a return to democratic rule, they had put the country on the road to prosperity. However, they faced their share of controversies because the troops were judged by America’s other actions in various parts of the world. There were those who felt victimized especially by the use of drone strikes and so they began targeting the marines for revenge attack. The resulting bloodbath threatened the fragile peace process and rocked the stability that had been painstakingly won.
Therefore, the Arab world is one of the volatile areas of the world where achieving and maintaining peace and stability has been the concern of major world powers (Magstadt 498). The security machineries in those countries (the military and police services) play a pivotal role in securing any gains made. They too help in maintaining law and order. However, they too can be a destabilizing force whose actions may make or break the fabric of a nation. They have complementary roles and for the sake of the Arab world, their security sector has made tremendous progress in achieving peace and stability but due to challenges, there is no total absence of war or tensions. Suspicions among member countries are still there and the war rhetoric keeps being repeated.
Bugajski, Janusz, and Ilona Teleki. Atlantic Bridges: America’s New European Allies. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. 193. Print.
Holsti, Ole R. American Public Opinion on the Iraq War. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. 42. Print.
Magstadt, Thomas M. Nations and Governments: Comparative Politics in Regional Perspective. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. 498. Print.
Miller, Laurence. Practical Police Psychology: Stress Management and Crisis Intervention for Law Enforcement. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas, 2006.5. Print.
Mockaitis, Thomas R. The Iraq War Encyclopedia. S. l: 2013. 155. Print.
Ṣabrī, Niḍāl R. Financial Markets and Institutions in the Arab Economy. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2008. 118. Print.