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The Arab Spring - Democracy is a Coincidence

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The Arab Spring captured the imagination of participants, reporters and spectators alike. We all felt that we were witnessing the fantastic awakening of the Arab world to the virtues of justice and democracy. But with its faltering and maintenance of the status-quo, the outcome of each uprising - both for the nation and for their respective leaders - seems to have more to do with their foreign policies than with their methods of elections and government.

Due to the constructs of laws, it is neigh on impossible for a peaceful popular revolution to be successful without any external pressure. What dictates the application of these pressures, which can range from subtle private meetings to economic sanctions and military action, depends on a delicate assessment of how useful the current leader can be on the international stage and how much would it cost for said leader to change.

Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria - to name but a few - do not have a democratic existence. There are no regular elections and they do not have the best human rights record in the world. But all three have had differing results when it came to their Arab Springs.

Libya's Gaddafi was not a friend to the west. He was not someone that the west preferred to be in power due to his almost comical inability to negotiate.

In 1972, Gaddafi formed the Islamic Legion to bring about his Arabic-Islamic supremacist vision. This paramilitary group was tasked with driving out Christian elements in Africa. Gaddafi has supported many militant groups that held anti-western sentiments, including the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; not to mention the Lockerbie bombing and the killing of PC Yvone Fletcher in the UK.

So when it appeared that Gaddafi's iron grip on his people was about to loosen, the tone was very different. Allies sent special forces in "consultancy capacity" and later missions to aid the revolt. The fact that one of the first events under the Libyan Interim Council was the murder of its predecessor, make it difficult to claim the revolt was for the sake of justice and democracy and freedom. Though now his son Saif has been captured, there might be a second attempt at concepts such as "due process" and "fair trial".

In contrast, countries and leaders that have managed to make the right pro-western policy decisions managed to reap better results.

Mubarak was been a good diplomat, concentrating on a foreign policy that has allowed him to sit comfortably in the Arab League of Nations as well as by the side of numerous Presidents of the United States, from Carter to Obama. By upholding the unpopular peace treaty with Israel Egypt became an important Western ally; Mubarak's crackdown on Islamic fundamentalism and the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood, made him a Good ally regardless of his domestic record.

So, when Mubarak's troops and tanks failed to adequately quell the protesters, the reaction from foreign ministers was cautious. They did not directly denounce Egypt's president but still urged for Mubarak to find a solution. Though the UK and its allies were willing to allow Mubarak to try to get away the ministerial re shuffling strategies employed by Oman, Kuwait, Egypt is a geographically strategic country and no minister was willing be in a position where it would be impossible to court the new government.

Meanwhile, Bahrain's protesters occupied and set up camp in the Pearl Square in Manama, refusing to leave until their demands had been met. But there was barely a report on the security forces responding by surrounding the square and firing on protesters; or of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates military entering Bahrain to help Bahraini security forces respond to the unrest on14 March 2011 as by 16 March 2011 Bahrain's spring was done. There were also reports that Bahraini security forces had taken control of hospitals in Manama and actively denied medical care to protesters.

However, neither the UK or any of its allies were going to help urge a change in government in Bahrain regardless of the less than democratic and humane conduct. And, this is not surprising at when realises that the current leadership is the home of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and has a Defence Cooperation Agreement in October 1991. It does not make any strategic sense to encourage a change of regime that may be more democratic if it may also decide to exile the US Navy's Fifth Fleet from its strategic home.

So where does that leave Syria's Bashar?

Some were hopeful that Bashar, a UK Ophthalmologist, would be a potential ally to the west removing himself from his father's way of rule. But, even if Bashar personally held moderate views, he doesn't have the power to wield the Ba'ath party and rhetoric seems to have changed little. To him, the threat from within the party is far greater than any economic or political pressure from other leaders.

What makes this situation slightly difficult is, unlike the outdated military machine of Libya that ran on zealous fervour, Syria has been acquiring Russian weapons as recently as 2008. Including MiGs; Pantsir S1E air defence system; Iskander tactical missile systems; and submarines. So, regardless of Syria's atrocities, any actual intervention would lead to an ugly war that will stretch an already struggling western allied military that is stuck in two wars.

The sad truth is it would be naïve to try to paint a picture of this being purely about our governments helping civilians succeed in their fight for freedom and democracy - Egypt is still shrouded in tear gas in Tahrir Square as we speak. Internationally, countries will aid the promotion of democracy in other countries if it coincides with the economic and political interests of their country.

If we take a look at Dubai - a country with no elections but a booming economy, we can see that domestically as long as our families are fed and our children can go to school, we will ALL put up with whatever government is power.