The Hillary Revolution


Brendan O'Neill makes a good point about Tunisia:

Western governments…helped to keep Ben Ali in power for 23 years. Cheered as a loyal ally in Africa, a keen supporter of the 'war on terror', Tunisia under Ben Ali was backed by both Washington and Paris (the former colonial power). Ben Ali's regime received an estimated $350million in US military aid between 1987 and 2009. In 2009, following Ben Ali's re-election for the fifth time in a row with over 90 per cent of the vote, Abdul-Raouf Ayadi, vice-president of the banned outfit the Congress for Democracy, said: 'Western countries are backing the dictatorship in Tunisia and giving it financial and media support.' Tunisia shows that the last thing Africans need is Western interference; that only hampers their ability to take command of their affairs, by allowing the expedient desires of foreign governments to override the interests of African people.

The Weekly Standard nonetheless published a piece by Lee Smith over the weekend headlined "Did Hillary Clinton Help Bring Down Tunisia's Ben Ali?" The secretary of state, you see, had delivered a speech the day before the government fell, and her remarks included a few bland comments about the social problems of the Middle East. "It is worth wondering what Clinton's words might have indicated to both the regime and its opponents," Smith writes.

And you thought the "WikiLeaks revolution" narrative was a stretch. Well, at least he isn't attributing the uprising to Sarah Palin's target map.

Meanwhile, here's another comment from O'Neill's article that's worth highlighting:

many Western observers seem perturbed that the protests continued post-Ben Ali. It is striking that some reports shifted from describing the protests as a 'Jasmine revolution' to fretting over the potential 'slide into chaos'. One confused-sounding journalist reports that many of Tunisia's political classes had 'hoped that the toppling of Ben Ali would satisfy protesters'. The still-tense situation in the city of Tunis, where according to the BBC there are 'occasional skirmishes interspersed with scenes of celebration', is referred to as a 'post-uprising riddle'. But this is no riddle. These onlookers have simply failed to learn one of the key lessons of history, which is that when protesting groups of people get a sense of their own power, of their ability to shape events and mould history, they are likely to push further and harder, to seek to go beyond their initially fairly limited demands. In this sense, we should hope the protesting continues, and that the people of Tunisia wring as many democratic concessions as they can from their rulers.