Steve Niva, a professor of international politics and Middle East studies at The Evergreen State College, was talking about big, surprising waves on Friday.
He was not referring to the effects of a Japanese earthquake, but to the tsunami of uprisings across the Middle East states run by dictators.
Niva spoke to a noontime audience of the Olympia World Affairs Council about the scope and intensity of the Arab public’s emergence as a new political force.
And he predicted that not only would the peoples’ revolt spread to other countries, such as Yemen, Algeria and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, but that it would also trigger a significant change in U.S. foreign policy.
Niva has spent considerable time in Egypt over the past 20 years as well as researching and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is considered an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
He believes that the organized citizenry now demanding a say in how they are governed will create a third player in Middle East politics, thus diluting the power of the Islamic radicals and the ruthless dictators.
This will force America to take seriously the cliché that it must follow a policy designed to win the hearts and minds of Arab people, who have – in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, at least – begun to believe they are stronger than the brutal regimes that have oppressed them.
Niva began to see this activism grow in Egypt over the past five years of serious labor unrest. A high incidence of labor strikes and sit-ins arose from the economic desperation of people living on $2 per day. Add to that rampant police state brutality and a bulging youth population wired into a transnational cyber world that exposed them to the freedoms and opportunities enjoyed by others.
The Internet became a “force multiplier” and created a “wave of possibility” that is inspiring downtrodden young educated Arabs to make a stand toward fulfilling their desires and ambitions.
If the Evergreen professor is right, these public expressions of dissent will continue to grow, even in the countries ruled by family monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia.
Niva’s lesson delivered in The Olympian’s community room about what is occurring across the Middle East was just the most recent educational opportunity provided by the World Affairs Council. They stage monthly non-partisan programs to enlighten the community on matters of international politics, culture and scientific advancements.
Their next event is Thursday, when they will present a distinguished panel to look back, and ahead, at the Peace Corps during its 50th anniversary. That program begins at 7.30 p.m. in the Olympia Center.
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Geoge Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.