Saturday, April 2, 2011

Democracy in the Middle East: Did the US do it?

Mining social networks: Untangling the social web | The Economist: "Once these societal networks of influence can be accurately mapped, they can be used to promote the spread of particular ideas—those that support stability and democracy, for example. Last year America’s army, which jointly funds SOMA with the air force, began disbursing about $80m in five-year research grants for network analysis to promote democracy and national security. An authoritarian government, for instance, may have difficulties slowing the spread of a new idea in a certain medium—say, internet chatter about a book that explains how corruption undermines job creation. Diplomatic services can use this information to help ideas spread. Brian Uzzi of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who advises intelligence agencies on democracy-promotion analytics, says diplomatic services are mapping the “tipping point” when ideas go mainstream in spite of government repression.

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Did the US military start off the revolutions in the Middle East?

It seems that there is software that can spread an idea like a virus. Of courses, the US Congress claims to have been on the back foot, but the military and the secret services could have been working with the president and his staff to spread democracy in the Middle East. The reason? How to replace ageing autocrats.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the question of succession was acute as both countries' rulers were long in the tooth. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was known to be terminally ill nearly a year ago. But who would succeed him? Besides, these rulers had no popular mandate, and that was stymying efforts to block the peace process, with Israel looking increasingly bad.

A democratic mandate for Israel from surrounding countries was thereby needed: hence the bottom-up democratic transitions.

But the question arises: won't a democracy be harder to control? The answer is, No.

Look at Bangladesh: a democratic Muslim country of 150 million is a docile poodle of the United States. That's because the article points to another influence on public opinion: the 'influencers'.

These are people who direct social thinking: advertisers have long known that people follow certain role-models: hence the promotion of watches and shoes by popular stars. The same thing is at work when selling an idea. If a sufficient number of influencers can be corrupted by America into praising democracy and keeping mum about Israel, then the rest of the population will follow. In Bangladesh, two such influencers are Dr. Mozaffer Ahmed (PhD from University of Chicago) and Dr. Kamal Hossain (PhD from the University of Notre Dame). There are countless other PhDs - who are a dime a dozen in Bangladesh - from western universities who have been co-opted by the west, particularly America.

El-Baradei, et al, will no doubt serve a similar purpose in Egypt.

People underestimate how easy it is to corrupt a democracy. As a Greek dramatist observed:

"...Our wise
Democratic allies
Are ruled by our state democratic."

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