The Muslim Middle East has three types of governments: Military, Tribal and Ideological. A military government is formed when senior officers take power. A tribal government is based around a group of prominent families. An ideological government is based around a party, whether secular or Islamist. All these governments are tyrannies; though they may occasionally hold elections, they never open up the system. The elections serve as a means for passing from one tyranny to the next.
While these types of governments are different in some ways, they are not exclusive. Most overlap in a number of ways.
Military and ideological governments will become tribal as a few officers, leaders or Ayatollahs use their control of the economy to enrich themselves and their families. That is what happened in Egypt and in Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood differs from Mubarak in any number of political ways, but, on a personal level its leaders share his goal of enriching their families.
Whether a new government starts out as Islamist, Fascist or Socialist; these facades inevitably revert to the tribal. That is the fate of all governments in the Muslim Middle East, which do not evolve, but devolve.
Every Muslim leader, beginning with Mohammed, borrowed ideas brought in from outside to form a new system that became identical with the old. Mohammed borrowed from Judaism and Christianity to create the religious structure for yet another tribal government, controlled by his father-in-law. In the 20th Century the Muslim Middle East borrowed from the British Empire, France, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the USSR and the United States, to create hybrid systems that were either overthrown or which devolved into tribalism with an ideological facade. Like Mohammed, the bright new ideology ends up with a bunch of relatives in charge of the loot.
Muslim countries are forever at war with themselves. Military governments fear popular protests organized by ideological movements to seize power. And the ideological governments fear military coups. Tribal governments fear everyone and cripple their own military and bribe their own people to avoid being overthrown by officers or ideologues.
Every government is only a few bad months away from losing power, and so every government implements a regime of secret police and prisons. No sooner do the revolutionaries step out of prison to usher in a new era than the same thugs are rehired to torture enemies of the new regime.
The victors of the Arab Spring know that another few bad months could toss them out of power as easily as the bad months put them into power. Like every other regime in the Muslim Middle East, their main priority is staying in power by making it impossible for others to do to them what they did to their predecessors. That leads to a cycle of repression, broken by temporary liberalization as alliances with the opposition are explored and then abandoned, because the opposition cannot be trusted not to seize power for themselves.
Everyone in the region is playing rock-paper-scissors, all the time which leads to total regional paranoia and conspiracy theories. Everyone distrusts everyone else by necessity and keeps trying to guess how many fingers their rivals will put out while defending against their own weaknesses by preemptively attacking everyone else.
Military governments persecute ideologues. Ideologues imprison top officers. Tribals seek out military protectors– and then undermine them by backing their ideological enemies so as to stay in control of the relationship.
That is what happened to us and the Saudis, who, along with the other Gulfies, depend on our protection, but undermine us by supporting terrorism and Islamization to gain the upper hand. Paradoxically, the more that the Saudis need us, the more they undermine us, much as any feral population that is dependent on the charitable welfare of the majority lashes out against that majority to the exact degree that it is dependent on it.
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