Thursday, October 6, 2011

IRCPPS in the Links: The International Roots of Arab National Councils

Jay Ulfelder writes about insights into the international system that we can gain from studying the formation of Arab National Councils during the "Arab Spring."  He argues that they represent a manifestation of the second image reversed:
The important point here, though, is that these national councils have not arisen organically from domestic politics. There is undoubtedly some domestic logic to their creation–unified and coordinated revolutionary movements usually stand a better chance of toppling incumbent rulers than fragmented ones–but there is a strong outward-facing element as well. I think these councils came into being as quickly as they did–and maybe even at all–in response to pressures from foreign governments whose endorsements and material support they thought they needed to win their revolutions. Tellingly, SNC spokesman Ghalioun said at the international press conference announcing the council’s formation that one major benefit of the SNC’s existence “would be to provide a single body with which other countries could coordinate.”

What often goes unrecognized, I think, is how hastened processes of domestic unification and international recognition could shape not only the outcome of those revolutions, but also the longer trajectory of political development in those spaces we now call Libya, Syria, and Yemen. As much as anything else, the rapid establishment of a unitary national representative is a convenience for other states. In the short run, this rush to unity could have some positive effects by accelerating the successful conclusion of these revolutions. At the same time, though, international pressures to present a unified face may be accelerating politics and creating winners and losers in ways that could undercut the sustainability of the regimes that ensue.