Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bahrain: The Arab Spring turned Winter of Discontent

Sunni and Shi'a have rallied for the end of the Khalifah monarchy in Bahrain, another wave of protest in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution that originated in Tunisia and is spreading throughout the Middle East.

Bahraini protests have failed at the onslaught of the Monarchy's military opposition, including support form the neighboring state of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the superior firepower of the state, The conflicting demands of freedom-fighting protesters has betrayed the cause of failure:

1. More equal distribution of wealth
2. Less unemployment
3. More parliamentary power
(Source: LA Times "'Arab Spring' wilts on one isle." April 15, 2011, A1.)

Missing from this list of demands is recognition of natural rights, the chief service expected from government.

More equal distribution of wealth is tyranny of the less-entitled against the more-propertied. Tyranny in any form is evil, even if wielded by the hands of more people.
It is not the responsibility of the State to provide work for its citizens. Concentrating power into more democratic institutions does not guarantee individual liberty, the necessary condition for individual, free-market prosperity.

Beyond the conflicting demands of the uprising population, marginalized Shiites in Bahrain demand an end to the Monarchy which has condemned them to second-class status for so long. Initially willing to work with the embittered Sunnis, the currently empowered-Shi'as have fearfully distanced themselves from gathering protests.

Revolutions do not succeed in the wake of rapid wipe-out, withdrawal, and redress. The sectarian divide over the alacrity of change within Bahrain has been played out before. Consider the Great Britain's Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the nation's Parliament invited the Ruling Monarch's next-of-kin to rule the country in the place of Stuart Monarch James the Second, a devout Catholic who was slowly reinstating sectarian hegemony over the United Kingdom. William III of Orange married into a coregency with James II's daughter Mary. Because of his irreversible unpopularity Catholic James II fled Protestant England. The British people maintained their liberty, including from religion. The British people chose to retained the Monarchy, yet with the requirement that Parliament assume greater full power at the expense of the Monarchy, further confined by the English Bill of Rights. Unlike the protesters in Bahrain, the inhabitants of Great Britain expect an more equitable distribution of wealth, a blunt power-grab which would have undermined their rights as Englishmen.

The people of Bahrain have have failed to define for themselves the proper role that government should fill in their lives. Without clear designs for the institution to replace the Khalifah, the Bahraini people have only their animosity for the present conditions to united them, a tenuous alliance. Divided loyalties along sectarian lines and confused commitments to improved working conditions and more "people power" have all enabled the Khalifah Monarchy to restore order through Shi'a dominance, Sunni subservience, and growing sectarian unrest.

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