Who’s the Daddy Now? The Revolutionary Balance of Power

It’s now undeniable that universal access to information via the internet played a crucial role in the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries. Global opinion is now formed and refined online, and can probably be quantified. If it had been over the last two weeks, it is fairly clear that the body of world opinion was against Moamar Gadaffi, for the Libyan people (as it was for the people of Egypt and Tunisia) and for some kind of international support for the Libyan revolution.
It is also clear that support in the form of UN 1973 relied on  Russian and Chinese abstentions, and that this could not have happened any sooner than the middle of last week. The conversion of the Russians and Chinese, alongside that of the Arab League, is being accredited to superior diplomacy. In fact it was the result of something much more interesting and basic. 
What we have been witnessing is the workings of a fine shift in the way power is directed, and political energy converted into action. 
China and Russia almost always veto any UN action against any regime. Not so much on principle, but largely out of self-preservation. These regimes cannot allow their people to have aspirations to human rights above their station, and need to pose as stout opponents of western imperialism to inspire patriotic loyalty. So while Gadaffi was just another dictator among many, clinging on clumsily but quietly, Moscow and Beijing had no difficulty in shelving any action in the usual way. He had to make himself into a monster to make enough difference to Russian and Chinese domestic opinion for their leaders to be able to afford to support 1973.
When this happened, the balance of world opinion, between the global internet on the one side, and domestic Russian and Chinese opinion on the other, tipped in favour saving Bengazi (at least) from slaughter. As well as kick-starting the Jasmine Revolution, the internet has secured its advance. But more significantly, the last month has shown just how much the old certainties are reversed. David Cameron was not the leader of the defence of Libya, he was being led. He knew what the general public were saying and had to respond in kind. On this issue, he is doing what the internet told him to do. And if role-reversal is good enough for politicians, it’s good enough for bankers and Coca Cola too. Who’s between the shafts of the cart now? Who’s the Daddy now?
As for the future of Libya, the Jeremiahs are wrong. Firstly, there will be no ‘stalemate’. Once Misratah is liberated, as it will be (better late than never) Gadaffi will have to retreat to Tripoli and his inevitable fate. The libyan people will drive him there, then rise up to topple him and his few remaining puppets.
Secondly, there will be no divide between east and west, in spite of all the legendary ‘tribalism’ said to infest the country and make democracy there a genetic impossibility. There may well be a miniature Northern Ireland left as a legacy of the bloodshed, as there was as a result of Britain’s transition from feudalism to a form of democracy. We managed OK, eventually.

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