Monday, February 14, 2011

Political Change in Tunisia and Beyond

Who can fail to rejoice in the popular uprising in Tunisia that lead to the fall of the repressive regime of president Ben Ali? The Egyptian people has been inspired by these events to stage mass protests of their own, which have now also brought an end to the long autocratic rule of president Hosni Mubarak.

I recall a summer I spent in a sweltering hot Tunis in the mid-nineties, where droves of jobless young men were hanging around the city with a lot of idle time on their hands. They mostly spent the dusty evenings and jasmin-scented nights sitting on the sidewalks talking to each other, expressing with humor and irony the little hope they had for the future. Many of them hardly seemed to have any aspirations besides trying to get to Europe; an Eldorado beckoning to them, so close on the other side of the Mediterranean. It was obvious from their comments that they had no illusions about what kind of government Tunisia had, how it differed from Western ones, and what punishment it exacted on anyone who dared to defy it. Beatings and imprisonments by the security forces were commonplace. More than a decade later, political change seems finally to have come to Tunisia.

Though it had not drawn much attention to itself in the Western media over the years, the regime headed by president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his clan was a repressive police state. Since independence in 1956, the party founded by Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, had held on to power under different names and had not granted the Tunisian people much political freedom. If it was often called a “moderate” Arab nation, it was because both the regime and the people usually kept a low profile. The relative calm that reigned in Tunisia has helped to attract millions of politically unconcerned European tourists every year to the sunny resorts of Hammamet, Sousse and Djerba.

Economic freedom has also in practice largely been restrained in Tunisia because of the paralysing amount of red tape and the frustrating level of corruption. Though the country as a whole has seen high levels of growth for many years, this wealth has been unequally distributed. A majority has long suffered from high unemployment and persistently low living standards, while a minority has taken advantage of limited opportunities, often by resorting to graft and nepotism. Usually, the economic life of a nation cannot be easily distangled from its cultural and historical legacy. Nevertheless, resentment and hatred of the regime had understandably been brewing in the population for a long time.

The demonstrations which led to the dissolution of the Tunisian government are not the first one of its kind of course, nor the last. Massive protests have now had a similar impact in Egypt. Popular revolts have existed for as long as there have been societies, as people use the most natural means at their disposal to express dissatisfaction and frustration over the conditions in which they live. Nevertheless, the case of Tunisia is still special since its leader was forced out of office by the will of the people rather than by Western intervention - indeed, while still enjoying Western support. But since the political conditions in Tunisia have not varied much in the last decades, and economic conditions have even been slowly improving for the majority, then why did this popular revolt take place now? That is, what are the reasons for political change?


“Political change” should not be understood in the sense of a trifling reshuffle of a government cabinet for instance, or the toppling of an authoritarian leader. Such changes, though “political” in the immediate sense of the term, are insignificant at the level of society, and, indeed, they never have much impact by themselves. The abdication of the Tunisian government for instance, does not guarantee political change to Tunisian society, unless followed up by constitutional, institutional, and perhaps even social changes. No, political change should be understood in the broader sense of “societal changes of a political nature”. Political change in this sense is often driven by mass movements; rarely do they depend only on a few specific individuals.

Mass movements are usually composed of a core of more or less dedicated protesters, surrounded by a huge outer ring of passive supporters and anonymous sympathisers. Organisers and manipulators usually try to guide and control mass movements, but their importance is often exagerated. Mass movements often have plenty of passion but few thinkers; as a result they are often irrational and rudderless. Mass movements often lack clear objectives aside from protesting the status quo and vaguely demanding change. The demands of mass movements, as the examples of Tunisia and Egypt show, are often unarticulated and sometimes perceptible only in retrospect. George Santayana once said that mass movements are propelled by “a rush of a thousand hearts in a vague cause, simply because it has become a common cause.”[1] It is not surprising therefore, that mass movements constantly vary in composition and intention. As was reported by the New York Times in the case of Tunisia;

“In the streets, the Tunisian revolution continued to evolve. It began in the hard-pressed provinces with demands for more jobs, especially for Tunisia’s soaring number of young college graduates… It spread to the workers, small business owners and the coastal professional class as a revolt mainly against the flagrant corruption…But on Monday, the protesters in the streets appeared more working class…”.[2]

When the population could flair success and the Tunisian president was confirmed to have fled the country, these objectives shifted once again to include more ambitious and idealistic demands for “democracy” and “freedom”.

Political changes take place when other changes modify the balance of power in society. Traditionally, the reasons for political changes have been demographic and climatic, such as when strong population growth or prolonged periods of draught have lead to social instability and political reforms. Today though, except in the poorest and most undeveloped countries, political changes are arguably caused more by other types of changes to society, such as changes of a social, economic, and technical nature. These types of fundamental changes to society form the soil where the seeds of mass movements grow.

The fall of the government in Tunisia and the possible consequences for the Tunisian society offer a good example of this causal relationship. From a social perspective, the steady increase in the general education level in the last decades and the heightened political conscience that results from it, have naturally increased the potential for political change. From an economic perspective, the global financial crisis has likely contributed, as elsewhere, to increasing the tensions in the Tunisian society. Though Tunisia has not been as deeply affected by the recession as most Western nations, crucial exports to Europe have suffered, food prices have increased[3], and the official unemployment rate has remained high.[4] Economic growth in 2010 is estimated to have been the lowest in years.[5] Thus, the relative degradation of the economic environment for an increasingly educated population, though perhaps not dramatic, seems to have amplified an already high level of popular disenchantment with the Tunisian government. All that was needed was a spark to ignite a potentially explosive situation; the self-immolation of a young man in December 2010 was sufficient to trigger a popular uprising.[6]

Technical changes to society also played a crucial role in triggering the process of political change in Tunisia. It is likely that what has already been dubbed by many “La Révolution de Jasmin”, was yet another example of the influence that technology, and in particular new communication technology, can have on the political and social course of society. It is notable that Tunisia, though still a relatively poor country, has gone from having almost no cellphone users a decade ago, to full mobile penetration in 2010.[7] Further, the number of internet users quadrupled in Tunisia in the last five years, to almost half the population.[8] Not counting children and old people, this means that the majority of young adults in Tunisia now have mobile phones and are connected to the Internet. The unprecedented political turmoil in Tunisia should obviously be seen in this light.

The spread of these technical innovations, along with the deteriorating economic situation, explain why the mass protests against the Tunisian regime happened now and not earlier. Internet allows populations to obtain unprecedented access to information that is often unavailable in the traditional media, or at least not as readily. But more than access to information, it is the use of social media – e.g. sms, email, video sharing such as youtube, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter – accessible also now by cellphones, that have played an important role in the Tunisian uprising.[9]

However, it is not principally in the obvious ease of organising and coordinating political activities that the role of social media is important. Demonstrations have been successfully organised before these technical innovations existed.[10] Rather, social media increase the potential for political change in society because of their capacity to empathetically involve a large part of the population and increase the feeling of participation in political activities. In the article “Political Power of Social Media” in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Clay Skirky, Professor of New Media at New York University, mentions this capability of social media to change the balance of power between the civil society and the state, by increasing the “awareness” of the population about political events:

“For political movements, one of the main forms of coordination is what the military calls "shared awareness," the ability of each member of a group to not only understand the situation at hand but also understand that everyone else does, too. Social media increase shared awareness by propagating messages through social networks.”[11]

Any successful “revolution” requires, if not the direct involvement of the masses, at least their passive support. Private and public vested interests have an inherent interest in maintaining the status quo, so they are usually neither the initiators nor the backers of political change. If mass support is widely secured, then political movements have a better chance of success. Social media have precisely this characteristic since they raise the “awareness” of political movements far beyond the actual participants in the protests, for instance by sharing live video testimonies almost instantly. Other types of media of course also have an influence on “shared awareness”; for instance, this has been the effect of the coverage of Al-Jazeera in Tunisia and other Arab countries.[12] Social media were (and remain) crucial for protests in Tunisia because they lead to an increase in shared awareness which raises the stakes for everyone: both the protesters and the government knew that the majority of the population was both aware of the situation and supported the protesters. The increase in “shared awareness” can also have an immediate economic impact to society since it can lead large parts of the population to disrupt normal business activities, thereby putting further pressure on the government. This seems to have been a contributing factor in the case of the Egyptian mass protests.[13]

The increase of “shared awareness” which comes from the use of social media allow relatively “light” demonstrations to have an unproportional amount of political influence. Social media are therefore undoubtedly tools that the people can use to better pursue their unclear goals of freedom and democracy, even though the full political possibilities of these tools may not yet be fully understood. Before the existence of social media, all other things being equal, only very large protests could arguably have the same effect – in particular where media, old and new, are subjected to censorship. Of course, other factors must be taken into account as well, such as the size of country, and the power and legitimacy of the regime. In Tunisia, only several hundred or a few thousand protesters have taken part in the daily demonstrations; and yet, partly as a result of heightened “shared awareness” due to social media, those numbers were enough to bring down the government of a sovereign country (albeit a small one) and likely lead to political change.

However, regardless of the size of popular demonstrations, the overthrow of a regime, if foreign intervention is disregarded for the moment, is almost impossible without at least some support from the institutions that are responsible for the security and defense of the nation. As always, political power stands or falls by its ability to secure the loyalty of military power. Indeed, notwithstanding the effect of social media on “shared awareness”, the positions adopted by a nation’s various security and defense forces are fundamental in determining the outcome of popular protests. This is particularly true in times when armies, militias and police forces are far stronger than any number of determined citizens. In Tunisia, the army apparently played a pivotal role by refusing, unlike the police force, to open fire on the protesters, thereby strongly reducing the likelihood that the regime could crush the popular uprising by force.[14] As a result, the government was immediately undermined and quickly fell.

The increasing use of social media in the political sphere can be said, in effect, to lower the level of popular tolerance towards unjust and undemocratic policies. When the amount of “shared awareness” among the population is low, popular revolts that are large enough to threaten a regime happen only when the political or economic situation becomes “desperate”. The majority is thus apparently willing to tolerate quite a significant level of political and economic coercion, like for decades in Tunisia, as long as life is merely “reasonably tolerable”. With the advent of social media however, smaller popular revolts can become threatening to the regime even though the situation is not “desperate”, but perhaps merely “unsatisfactory”. The warning message in the age of social media should be clear not only to other authoritarian regimes but also to Western governments, in particular in the light of the general deterioration of living standards for many people in the US and Europe, not least as a result of the global financial crisis.

This is the reason governments all over the world are keenly interested in the political power of social media. It is natural for authoritarian as well as “democratic” states, to consider communication technology not only as a tool for improving the functions of government, but also as a threat. The reactions of the US government to Wikileaks is a typical example. It should be expected, therefore, that all states might conceivably take measures to obstruct the use of the internet to access what is considered subversive material and to limit the possibility of using social media to foment dissent. This does not only mean, of course, the kind of crude censorship that exists in China and other countries, or that has recently been practiced by the Egyptian authorities.[15] There are more subtle and sophisticated methods that could be suitably used in the West.

Moreover, social media is a double-edged sword since it can work not only against the powers that be, but also for them, by helping them sustain and promote the existing political and economic order.[16] It is not surprising, therefore, that social media have caught the interest of US intelligence services for the truly exceptional user-data mining possibilities that it offers them.[17] Indeed, there are not only benign effects from technical progress. The complex technological society certainly empowers the individual, but it also gives states (and in some ways large corporations as well) an increasing edge over the individual. They are arguably the only entities that are big and resourceful enough to make full use of new technology to further their ends. For instance, just in the field of surveillance, recent innovations have allowed Western governments to deploy networks of sophisticated cameras in public places, conduct high-tech wire-tapping of their own citizens, and monitor civilian electronic information flow.[18] These are some examples of how reductions of basic liberties have become easier for the state in the highly technological society.

In such circumstances, an educated and constantly vigilant population is more than ever the prerequisite for upholding political and economic freedom. Communication technology, and social media in particular, can certainly help promote liberty and democracy, as the events in Tunisia and Egypt have shown. But that is not enough. As Benjamin Constant, the 19th century French liberal, said in a famous speech from 1819:

“In order to benefit from the liberty that they would like, the people, in a representative system, must excercise an active and constant surveillance of their representatives, and reserve the right, at not too infrequent intervals, to remove from power those who have failed to honour their promises and to revoke the powers of those who have abused them.”[19]

Communication technology facilitates such efforts, but to be vigilant in order to safeguard liberty means to assume that any state, in particular as it grows in size, will attempt by both legal and technical means, sometimes very discreetly, to slowly increase its control over the individual. It will do that by deploying means to monitor the activities of the individual, restrict her movements, and limit his access to certain information. The erosion of civil liberties in the West in recent years, in particular in the US and Britain, in the pretext of “security”, are typical of this tendency. Wherever Benjamin Constant’s advice goes unheeded, liberty and democracy can be expected to suffer.


Among developing and emerging countries however, most political change has happened not because of the reasons mentioned previously, but because of interventions by foreign states. Indeed, the political destinies of most of these nations have been largely shaped by foreign interventions by Western powers over the last two centuries, and for many of them this is still the case today. The most flagrant type of foreign intervention is of course military intervention, such as currently in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Palestine. But political and economic intervention, for instance in the form of political pressure, financial and military support or targeted trade policies, can also have a significant impact on a nation’s political and economic order.

Foreign intervention is a direct and targeted set of actions towards a specific nation, and should be distinguished from what may be called foreign “influence”, which is more general and not directed towards any particular country. Of course, foreign influences are in a sense, if not always natural, at least inevitable in a globalised world of deep political and economic ties between nations. They can also lead to political changes though; in the last decades, for instance, the general demands by the West for open markets are often accompanied by political changes in developing countries.

Since Western powers are used to being the main agents of political change in many nations of the world, they were therefore somewhat caught off guard by the uprising in Tunisia. Most experts seem to have given the demonstrations little chance of success. But when Ben Ali suddenly declared a state a emergency and then fled the country after only a month of demonstations, it became evident that political change seemed to have been triggered without foreign intervention. As a result, the popular uprising in Tunisia had the effect of revealing the hypocrisy with which Western powers often deal with developing countries. This was particularly the case for France and the USA, the two nations that have been most intimitely involved with Tunisia.

France had been a close ally to the Tunisian regime, and successive French presidents have considered Ben Ali a friend. Indeed, just before the fall of the government, Ms. Alliot-Marie, the French Foreign Minister, proposed for France to help the Tunisian security forces control and subdue the revolts.[20] After the Tunisian people managed to free themselves of the yoke of the Ben Ali regime, the Elysée had to scramble to change the official message; French president Sarkozy suddenly declared in an official statement that the Elysée was providing “determined support” to the “desire for democracy” of the Tunisian people. The French President even went so far as to declare that "France has taken the necessary steps to ensure suspicious financial movements concerning Tunisian assets in France are blocked administratively."[21] Such a volte-face is of course not surprising, considering the common discrepancy that exists in the West between speech and action regarding democracy and freedom in developing countries.

This discrepancy became blatantly apparent when Sarkozy affirmed, in the same statement, that “the politics of France are based on two constant principles : the non-involvement in the interior affairs of a sovereign country, and the support for democracy and liberty.”[22] Not only does this statement directly contradict the first one about blocking Tunisian assets, but it also obviously contradicts the actual French foreign policy, which keeps over ten thousand troops spread around Africa, as well as in Afganistan and elsewhere.[23] France is currently deeply involved in political change in the Ivory Coast for instance.[24] Perhaps one is meant to understand then, with flawless Cartesian logic, that since these two “constant principles” are in fact at times contradictory, they can therefore both be infringed in the interests of France? It is remarkable that French presidents have the nerve to repeat this mantra, despite the obvious fact that France has often done precisely the opposite: constantly trying to bring about political change by intervening in the affairs of other nations, in particular of its former colonies, often with disastrous consequences.

One cannot but remember the infamous French involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. France not only continued its close collaboration with the murderous Hutu government after the massacre had started, but the French army apparently helped train the genociders, while denying protection to the Tutsis who were being butchered to death.[25] Another relatively recent example is the involvement of France in the internal affairs of Algeria in 1992. When the Islamic FIS party was poised to win open and free elections, the voting process was interrupted by a military coup which had France’s covert support. This blatant intervention, as well as France’s military aid to the Algerian army, helped trigger the bloody and particularly brutal civil war in which hundreds of thousands of Algerians were murdered.[26] As another direct consequence of this foreign intervention, many French citizens were also killed and wounded in several Algerian terrorist attacks in Paris in 1995.[27]

Similary, the hypocrisy of the United States also became painfully obvious during the Tunisian uprising. The US government knew very well what type of political system Tunisia had. As a leaked diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Tunis said, “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”.[28] Yet the US also counted Ben Ali and his regime as a close friend and an ally in the “fight against terrorism”. The US also provided a constant flow of military aid to the Tunisian regime during the rule of Ben Ali, from 1987 to 2009, as well as a substantial increase recently.[28] However, immediately after the unexpected capitulation of Ben Ali, president Obama grandly stated that the “United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights”, and he called “on the Tunisian government to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair elections”.[29]

This is a general pattern for US foreign policy of course, and not exclusive to Tunisia. For years, the USA has been completely unconcerned, officially at least, by the obvious contradiction of openly preaching “democracy” around the world, and in particular in the Muslim world, while at the same time supporting many undemocratic and corrupt regimes there, helping them to stay in power by providing them international legitimacy as well as significant military and economic aid.

An ominous example is Egypt, a close ally of the US which has also been shaken by massive protests against the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak. The corrupt and authoritarian Egyptian regime has received around $1.5 billion annually in aid from the US, second only to Israel.[30] Only a small part of this package is economic aid to the country; most of it is military aid and, according to a recent article from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, this military aid is “devoted mainly to strengthening the regime’s domestic security and its ability to confront popular movements”.[31] After Mubarak was finally forced to resign from office partly as a result of valiant mass protests, the US president had of course only kind words and wishes for the Egyptian people.[32] When trying to evaluate a nation’s foreign policy, it is always useful to remember that actions speak far louder than words.

The actions of Western governments thus strongly suggest that it matters less whether an emerging or developing country is free and democratic, than whether it accepts to be a strategic and economic ally, and if possible, an obedient and subordinate one. Indeed, Western political establishments did have not have any concern with the corrupt and repressive Tunisian regime. On the contrary, it was seen as a “friendly” and “model” Muslim state since the country was open for investment, followed the recommendations of the IMF[33], and cracked down hard on Islamists. Any future Tunisian government that continues to fullfill these conditions will therefore be acceptable to the West, regardless of whether it is “democratic”. Conversely, it can be expected that the US and France will try to undermine any democratisation process in Tunisia which could jeopardise these conditions.

This was precisely what happened in Palestine, which held an open and fair election for the first time in 2006. However, the result of that election didn’t please the “international community” because it didn’t come out as expected. As Noam Chomsky said, “Palestinians offended the masters by voting the wrong way in a free election.”[34] Since then, the US and Israel have constantly thwarted this democratic outcome, by using various tactics, both military and economic, to continuously disrupt and weaken the party that won - Hamas.[35]

The object of foreign intervention, unless guided by folly, is first and foremost to serve strategic and commercial interests. As such, it should always be viewed with scepticism, regardless of the kind of political change that it would eventually lead to. Since the post-colonial era is still a world of nation-states, the rationale underpinning interventions by foreign powers has not fundamentally changed, notwithstanding the moderating influence of the United Nations. Retired US foreign policy realists like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger should at least be applauded for their candour in clearly acknowledging this.[36] As the examples above show, there is therefore no reason to assume that foreign interventions generally contribute to freedom and democracy, despite what many beautiful speeches claim. On the contrary, foreign interventions have often been a direct hindrance to such positive political developments.


The lessons from Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, and many other countries, regarding political change by foreign intervention seem thus to be the following. Firstly, though a nation’s population is never more than partly involved in political change, foreign intervention in the affairs of that nation is the least desirable cause of political change since it is the one which involves that nation’s population the least. Secondly, steps towards freedom and democracy can be taken in developing and emerging countries without foreign intervention, if these countries are left alone and given the possibility to develop independently and at their own rythm.

There are obviously cases where foreign intervention could be justified since it could sometimes improve conditions and since the West should arguably continue to share some responsibility for many of the conflicts and difficulties in the post-colonial world. But the following rules should then apply: 1) the intervention should be officially requested by the government of the concerned nation, 2) it should be primarily humanitarian in nature, and 3) it should be done under the aegis of a (hopefully reformed) United Nations. If these simple rules were followed, foreign interventions would look very different than the ones that are still being used by the West in its endeavour to subdue the rest of the world.

Political change in society over time is a complex phenomenon; myriad different factors determine the political road a nation takes. Further, cultural and religious values and traditions pervade all societies, and tend both to limit as well as guide political change, by restricting the options. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify the most important modern causes of political change: the social, economic, and technical changes in society, as well as foreign intervention. In Tunisia, the political change that has started in Tunisia seems to be primarly the result of the recent degradation of economic conditions and the development of communication technologies, in particular social media. Foreign intervention apparently did not play a role.

These reflexions on political change are relevant not only to the situation in Tunisia but also to other countries with authoritarian regimes that are currently experiencing mass protests and political upheaval; most notably Egypt. The Tunisian uprising is inevitably having political consequences all over the Arab world. But it would be erroneous to think that these thoughts only apply to developing countries, or emerging and muslim nations. Indeed, in these turbulent times, it is all the more important to remember that also in the West, recent social, economic and technical changes to society as well as strong external influences, are likely to bring not only new political opportunities, but also new political threats to freedom and democracy.

Despite the euphoria that must be felt everywhere in Tunisia today, it is still too early to say whether the country will really go through with political change. Indeed, there are indications that the changes to the political system might only be superficial and that the incumbent party, the RCD, might manage to cling to power.[37] If, however, a new political system does emerge, it will take time for economic and political conditions to improve to such a degree as to have significant impact on the lives of the majority. What happened so spectacularly in January 2011 in Tunisia is hopefully just a small step towards deeper and more structural changes that might increase civil liberties and introduce some form of democracy. If that proves to be the case, then the “Jasmin Revolution” should make it possible for today’s Tunisian youth to have a brighter future than those resigned young men from that hot summer over a decade ago.


[1] G. Santayana, Dominations and Powers, p442. Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1951.

[2] “Tunisia Unrest Stirs Passions Across North African Region”, The New York Times, 18 January 2011.

[3] “Spike in global food prices contributes to Tunisian violence”, The Washington Post, 14 January 2011.

[4] “The Maghreb and the Global Economic Crisis: When Does the Tunnel End?”, International Economic Bulletin, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2009.

[5] Tunisia GDP - real growth rate.

[6] “How a Single Match Can Ignite a Revolution”, The New York Times, 21 January 2011.

[7] Major African Mobile Markets: Future Growth Prospects 2006-2011. Key Market – Tunisia

[8] Tunisia: Internet Usage and Marketing Report.

[9] “Tunisia protesters use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to help organize and report”, LA Times, 14 January 2011.

[10] “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted”, by Malcolm Gladwell, 4 October, 2010

[11] “The Political Power of Social Media”, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011.

[12] “Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Taps Arab Anger”, The New York Times, 17 January, 2011.

[13] “Egypt’s Economy Is Near Paralysis”, The New York Times, 31 January, 2011.

[14] “Tunisia army pivotal to Ben Ali ousting: reports”, Reuters, 17 January 2011.

[15] “Protesters Clash With Police in Cairo”, The New York Times, 28 January 2011.

[16] see for instance, The Net Dilusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, by Evgeny Morozov.

[17] Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

[18] “Report: U.S. Surveillance Society Running Rampant”,, 12 January 2009.

Democracy Going Dark: The Electronic Police State : The FBI's Multi-Billion "High-Tech Surveillance" Program, Global, 21 May 2009.

[19] B. Constant, “De la liberté des Anciens comparée à celle des Modernes”, speech from 1819.
[20] « La diplomatie française a défendu jusqu'au bout le régime tunisien», Le Monde, 15 January 2011.

[21] “France says blocking suspicious Tunisian asset moves”, Reuters, 15 January 2011.

[22] « Paris prêt à bloquer les comptes du clan Ben Ali en France », Le Monde, 15 January 2011.

[23] Afrique : où sont déployés les militaires français ?

[24] Ministère des Affaires Étrangères; Côte d’Ivoire.

[25] “French troops 'raped girls during Rwanda genocide'”, The Independent, 31 August 2007.

OUA-Rapport sur le genocide au Rwanda.pdf.

[26] Algeria and the Paradox of Democracy: The 1992 Coup, its Consequences and the Contemporary Crisis.

[27] There are indications that these terrorist attacks actually involved not only the Islamic GIA but also the Algerian Secret Service (DRS), and were partially an attempt for the Algerian government to fully secure the backing of Europe in general and France in particular. See “GIA: Armed Islamist Groups Serving the Algerian Sécurité militaire?”, Algeria-Watch, March 2003.

[28] “Massive U.S. Military Aid to Tunisia despite human rights abuses”, Asia Tribune, 18 January 2011.

[29] Statement by the President on Events in Tunisia, The White House Press Office, 14 January, 2011.

[30] US Department of State, Background Note: Egypt.

[31] “U.S. Aid to Egypt: The Current Situation and Future Prospects”, A. Al-Sayed El-Naggar, June 2009.

[32] Obama On Egypt: “The Wheel Of History Turned at a Blinding Pace”, 11 February 2011.

[33] “Tunisia Weathers Crisis Well, But Unemployment Persists”, IMF, September 2010.

[34] “Confrontation with Hamas and Hezbollah”, Interview with Noam Chomsky, Zcommunications.

[35] “US plotted to overthrow Hamas after election victory”, The Guardian, 4 March 2008.

[36] See for instance, Z. Brzezinski, “The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign” (The American Interest, Autumn 2005), and “Profile: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger”.

[37] Tunisie : Les signes révélateurs des réels objectifs du pouvoir de l’après Ben Ali, 28 January 2011.


  1. Interesting post indeed, Finn. I believe what you say "Any successful “revolution” requires, if not the direct involvement of the masses, at least their passive support" is totally true, and that is what we see is happening not only in Tunisia but in other countries as well. Just take a look at the revolution in Egypt a few days ago, where the army had this roll, clearly giving their passive support from the beginning.