As we wind up the August of the “Arab Spring,” I find myself thinking that the chaos in the Middle East was foretold. Some people saw how it would play out 60 years ago — but not clearly. They had the right idea, but the particulars wrong — wrong time, wrong place, wrong motivating factor, but the general idea correct.
One of those who had an imperfect vision was President Eisenhower. He warned that the rise of Communism in Southeast Asia would trigger a “domino effect,” as one nation’s fall would trigger another, and the next. That never came to its fruition — some say it was because the US checked it and broke its momentum in Viet Nam, some say it was a flawed theory from the outset — but it’s turning out to be a useful model in seeing what is happening in the Middle East, and Islamism.
Of course, there are differences with the “Arab Spring.” For one, the dominoes are not necessarily dependent on geography. In the old days, geographic proximity was a tremendous boon; revolutionaries and revolutionary ideas were somewhat limited in their ability to move. Now, though, with the telecommunications revolution, borders really don’t matter much any more in these matters. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, blogs… there are so many ways messages can be spread that don’t involve getting past border security.
Another big difference is in the outcome. With the Domino Theory, we had a pretty good idea of the outcome — and it was bad. with the Arab Spring, though, we literally have no idea what is coming. It could be the birth of a true era of freedom and enlightenment in the Arab world, or yet again the rise of Islamism.
History is not on freedom’s side. The vast majority of revolutions in the Arab/Islamic world not driven by outside factors have ended up being worse — far worse — for the citizens of the nation, and the world at large.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to listen to Genesis’ The Last Domino:
Well now you never did see such a terrible thing
As was seen last night on T.V.
Maybe if we’re lucky, they will show it again
Such a terrible thing to see – oh
But there’s nothing you can do when you’re next in line
You’ve got to go domino.
Now I’m one with the living and I’m feeling just fine
I know just what I gotta do
Play the game of happiness and never let on
That it only lives on in a song – oh
Well there’s nothing you can do when you’re next in line
You’ve got to go domino.
Do you know what you have done?
Do you know what you’ve begun?