Trinity of Revolution: Momentum, Maneuver, Mobility

Fathi El-Shihibi

Revolutions around the world differ in details yet are similar in terms of their internal dynamics and cohesion as well as their progression and conclusions. The Libyan revolution should be no different particularly in relation to what I would like to call the three Ms including momentum, maneuver and mobility that had characterized revolutions from the French to the American Revolutions and beyond. These integral aspects that were manifested in Arab popular revolutions so far whether in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain or Libya are keys to their preservation and continuity. Even though the initial incidents that triggered the popular momentums differed from one country to the other however the ensuing national outrage was identical in all four scenarios. While the self-Immolation of the martyr Muhammad Bouazizi ignited the national outrage and revolution in Tunisia, the brutal death of Khalid Said at the hands of members of Egypt’s police after his posting of a video on the internet exposing their involvement in drug trafficking, triggered the revolution in Egypt. Furthermore the torture of Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace turned into a day of rage and consequently a revolution in Bahrain and the detainment and torture of the lawyer and human rights activist Fathi Terbil led to an outrage among Libyans and sparked an all out revolution in the country.
Momentums are essential therefore they need to be consolidated and legitimized so that efforts by counter revolutionaries to discredit popular revolts through deconstructing or delegitimizing their symbols could be immediately exposed and expunged. Current developments in all of the countries mentioned above clearly show how counterrevolutionaries represented in this case by the regimes and particularly heads of these regimes have all resorted to overt and covert countermeasures to deflate the revolutionary momentums from within and without. While the now deposed Zein al-Abidin bin Ali of Tunisia pointed fingers at malicious outside forces and inside machinations by religious fanatics and anarchists the ex-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak railed against national and international conspirators and not knowing any better he, taking his cue from bin Ali’s fabrications, also laid the blame for his predicament on radical Muslims and foreign agents and activists. When it was Ghaddafi’s turn to face the music he immediately began bad mouthing outside intervention either by exiled traitors, hostile countries or even satellite TV stations namely al-Jazeera and al-Hurrah. He being the creative genius that he is also blamed habitual drug users and al-Qaeda operatives who exported by Bin Laden to create chaos and undermine his rule and his paradisal Jamahiriya (government of the giddy masses) that is the envy of the whole universe including the United States of America not to mention the inhabitants of Paradise itself.
Following the successful authentication and legitimization and safeguarding of momentums, revolutions would consequently enter the next phase which I call “maneuver”. Maneuver serves two purposes including the preservation of revolutions and pursuing ways to expand their reach whether internally and externally. Moreover maneuvers most likely involve nonviolent and violent interactions depending on the parties taking part in such interactions. As we witnessed in the case of the Tunisian, Egyptian, the Bahraini and especially the Libyan revolutions peaceful interactions between demonstrators and regimes were very short lived before the regimes unleashed their firepower resulting in brutality and bloodshed. While revolutionaries in these countries responded in kind in acts of self-defense their representatives in their bid to secure recognition for their uprising and confer legitimacy on their demands and objectives reached out to the international community and international organizations including the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations Security Council. Maneuvers whether in terms of defensive or offensive measures also help pave the way for the deconstruction of the old systems and their symbols and the construction of new systems with new symbols. The Libyan people for example had already began the task of dismantling the Ghaddafi regime and its symbols by discarding the green book which previously replaced the 1951 Libyan constitution and even replacing the regimes green flag with the flag of the Libyan Monarchy that lasted from independence in 1951 to 1969. Internal and external maneuvering on the part revolutionaries in the above mentioned Arab countries would continue and increase until the old regimes are discarded or completely neutralized by democratic and enduring constitutions safeguarded by popular will.
The third and last phase on the agenda of popular revolutions is none other than mobility. As a matter of fact mobility is not just a phase but a continuance. In addition to being an extension and a culmination of the previous two phases, mobility combines essential elements of momentum and maneuver.
The American Revolution (1775-1783) to overthrow the British is a good example to illustrate the inner working of each phase independently and in combination with others. The trigger for the American Revolution was a popular revolt against being heavily taxed without having any sort of representation in the government of King George III.
However what gave the revolution its momentum was the killing of protesters causing fellow American patriots to take aim at the British soldiers and firing “the shot that was heard around the world”. During the revolution American revolutionary leaders pursued internal and external maneuvers to rally people to the cause and gain recruits and also publicize the justness of their revolt among other nations and consequently invite their backing and support as in the case of France’s involvement on the side of the revolution. The mobility phase in the American scenario began before gaining sovereignty.
The blue prints for the American system of government and the constitution for the new republic were even implemented before the actual independence on July 4th 1776. Once independence and self determination were established the American government and American people became engaged in a process of upward mobility which consists of preserving the legacy and legitimacy of the revolution and pursuing unprecedented levels of creativity especially the creation of new cultural awareness independent of the British culture at the time.
Arab countries that are still embroiled in popular uprisings have already identified and preserved the symbols of their popular uprising that triggered the revolutionary momentums. These same countries are also at different stages regarding the maneuvering to sustain and expand the gains of their revolutions on the national and international fronts. Final triumphs over the discredited regimes would inevitably usher in eras of mobility with no way to go but upward towards major and positive changes on all levels including but not limited to the creation of new Arab societies where freedom, justice and progress run supreme. Fathi El-Shihibi Department of Philosophy & Religion
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts 02215 USA