111102 mena stability_security

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  • 1. RETHINKING THE ARAB SPRING STABILITY AND SECURITY IN EGYPT, LIBYA, TUNISIA, AND THE REST OF THE MENA REGION By Anthony Cordesman November 8, 2011 Anthony H. Cordesman Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy acordesman@gmail.com

2. Cordesman: Stability, security, and the New MENA Spring 11/8/11 2 No one can ignore the short-term problems the political upheavals in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia create for each country. New leaders must be chosen and security systems must be changed. The problems involved can kill political, economic and demographic reforms before they even begin. There is a serious danger, however, in focusing on short term needs and failing to focus on the depth of the problems that Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and virtually every other Middle Eastern and North African state now faces. Experts can debate just how much the structural problems in each state led to the current round of political unrest and upheavals, but there is no debate over the fact that only a few oil-rich states with tiny native populations are free from massive problems in dealing with population growth, youth unemployment, failed or weak governance, and security structures that do as much to repress as to protect. These are problems both the Arab world and outside analysts have tended to downplay and neglect, but they are so serious that no advances in democracy and human rights can offer most MENA countries either security or stability. Even the best election, and major reforms of national security structures, will be a prelude to a new round of political upheaval unless these forces are given fare more consideration that they have been given to date. The Impact of Demographics and Low Economic Growth Both Muslim and Western states have ceased to focus on population growth for differing religious and political reasons. As the detailed numbers for population growth in Figure One show, however, population growth has been truly explosive in virtually every MENA state. It is true that population growth rates have been dropping, but they are dropping far more slowly than many predicted in the past, and populations that have grow 4 to 6 times since 1950 will generally double again by 2050. They will do so in nations that have far more restrictions in terms of water and arable land than most states in the world, and where the policies of past regimes have often kept economic growth and diversification far below the rates of progress in Asia and Latin America. Governments have failed both to create the social and political conditions that will reduce population growth and deal with the growth that has already occurred. As Figure Two shows, the end result is a massive youth bulge that is pouring more and more young men and women into economies that cannot offer them productive jobs, or meaningful per capita incomes. This is as true of many oil-exporting states as it is of oil poor states. Even if one ignores the corruption, cronyism, and nepotism that has sharply increased the gap between rich and poor in most MENA states, and that has lowered the status and security of much of the middle class, Figure Three shows just how low the CIA World Factbook ranks the average per capita income of far too many MENA states. It is striking to see just how poor Algeria, Iraq, and Iran now are largely because of history of internal conflict, terrible economic policies, and gross over dependence on the petroleum sector. 3. Cordesman: Stability, security, and the New MENA Spring 11/8/11 3 Many other states, however, have per capita incomes ranking below 100 a rough indication of serious overall poverty in todays global economy. This is often disguised by the growth of modern urban areas, but it is all too real in practice. While there is no direct correlation between poverty and political unrest, it is all too clear even from these numbers why so many Arabs and Iranians could regard their governments as having failed them. These data, however, only hint at how much sharper the disparities between the richest and poorest MENA states have become. (A sparsely populated Libya with major oil wealth still had a poverty rate of some 30% of its population before the current political upheavals began. Models that focus on GNP growth or on per capita income without addressing income distribution are little more than political and economic rubbish.) These basic economic pressures interact with hyperurbanization throughout the region which has forced radical shifts in tribal, ethnic, sectarian and social structures in every state (Saudi Arabia has gone from 8% urbanization in 1950 to over 80% today). Traditional elements have sometimes adapted, but traditional societies of the kind that existed before 1950s have virtually vanished. No Arab or Persian cleric, leader, regime, or political party that keeps ignoring these realities can serve a given nations people or create the groundwork for political stability. Political change in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia as is the case with states that so far have been more stable will fail, or will make the future even worse if it does not face the need for major improvements in the economy, infrastructure, education, and governance that can deal with these pressures. No amount of progress in democracy or human rights can succeed unless these issues are addressed as well. The Issues MENA Governments Must Now Address It is dangerous to generalize too much in addressing the challenges MENA government must now address. They do differ sharply by country, and polling data in the Arab Development Report for 2009, as well as in polls that have never had public distribution, show very different priorities and perceptions in given countries, and within given ethnic, sectarian, tribal, and income groups in the same country. Once again, there is no consistent correlation between public perceptions and potential political unrest, and any given factor or metric. There are, however, a list of factors that every country must consider, and that do emerge as proven or potential causes of unrest many driven by the combination of demographic and economic pressures summarized earlier. These factors along with measures to address population growth and a youth bulge that must continue for at least another decade, have become a virtual check list of the measures that MENA governments must address to avoid future unrest, failed states and governments: 4. Cordesman: Stability, security, and the New MENA Spring 11/8/11 4 Middle Class status, income distribution, poverty line, perceptions of social equity: Demonstration after demonstration has made it clear that perceptions of economic status and future opportunity are as critical as baseline metrics. Traditional metrics like national per capita income, GDP growth, and poverty lines set near the subsistence level do not measure potential or real unrest. Employment and job quality: The issue is not simply employment, it is whether the job is real, has status, provides the ability to marry and have a family, and is seen as offered on the basis of merit for those outside a privileged elite. Job creation alone will not address the causes of unrest. Education: Governments differ radically in investment in education, educational quality, and the relevance of education. Some countries provide limited access. Others create low-quality higher education that is little more than a series of diploma mills. Where employment rates are low, education often does not create meaningful or reliable skills. Role of women: Women now make up a majority of secondary school and university graduates in countries like Saudi Arabia but lag badly in both employment rates and real jobs with serious productivity gain. This wastes a critical part of the labor force, raises population growth, and puts a heavier burden on young men and their families to finance marriage and careers. The human right issue is only part of the story, and discrimination penalizes men as well as women. Services and utilities: Countries differ sharply in providing services sometimes grossly distorting demand and their economies through mixes of subsidies and free services. Electricity, water, fuel prices, medical services, and housing all present serious mixes of problems in many MENA countries. The scale of these problems is often disguised by ignoring how well and how fairly government funded efforts are distributed and the quality of distribution of services. Gross measures of total national effort e.g. total power generation or access to medical services are worse than useless: they are sharply misleading. Foreign labor: Many Gulf countries, and Libya have far too much dependence on foreign labor, often as a result of government policies that favor low cost foreign labor and distort the domestic labor market. These problems continue to grow in most such states, in spite of policies that claim to favor local labor, and are a source of serious corruption in terms of the ruling elites manipulation of foreign labor permits for its own advantage in at least one Gulf state. Hyperurbanization: Showpiece buildings can disguise a lack of proper housing, urban services, and commuting capability. The quality of urban life is a serious problem. State sectors and employment: The failure to create effective private sectors and market systems, gross over-employment in the state sector, reliance on inefficient state industries, and lack of effective and implemented economic 5. Cordesman: Stability, security, and the New MENA Spring 11/8/11 5 planning often make governments a de facto burden or threat to their own economy as well as job creation and economic equity. Agriculture: Sharp rises in population pressure, and sometimes limits to water, increase land density or drive people out of agricultural areas. A lack of capital and modern farming techniques adds to the problem. Most countries lack effective government planning and se