Finally, they’ve figured it out. How to to do counter-revolution properly. It’s not about machine-gunning protestors or throwing them into solitary confinement. That’s old school, and in this age where everyone, including the usually subservient and quiescent populace is up in arms about rights and freedoms and suchlike, and they can all get the documentary proof through their smartphones (which is promptly beamed to Al-Jazeera), the normal strong-arm tactics just aren’t working.
Effective counter-revolution in the 21st century is far more nuanced, and is premised on the popular confusion between the president and the regime. The idea is simple: get rid of the president and keep the regime going. In Tunisia, Ben Ali’s departure didn’t herald a new dawn of democracy and participation; rather, it saw a cabinet stuffed with old guard appointees. In Egypt, Mubarak went off into the sunset but left his military in firm control, and they’ve been up to all his old tricks (read here for Third World Goes Forth’s take on how the military continues to censor Egyptian media).
And in Yemen, we have the news announced today that Ali Abdullah Saleh, perhaps the only man who fully understands how Yemen’s delicate balance of power works (he’s had to in order to keep himself in power for so long), is going to step down sometime ‘in the next 30 days’. The deal for his departure has been organised by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the same august body that supported the rebels in Libya and the monarch in Bahrain, so we know exactly where their moral compass is pointing (south, in case you were wondering). The 30 day window should be just enough time to rearrange things so that even though Saleh is gone, his regime will linger. And the protestors, their core demand having been met, no longer have a symbol to protest against.
And so the revolution fizzles out at the expense of one man. While Saleh might not be happy – as Ben Ali and Mubarak weren’t – the state he established will continue in his image.
VERDICT: subtle counter-revolution goes fourth; evil is so much more so when it is intelligent.