Why Should You Read This?
Up till now, the southern coast of the Mediterranean has been solely populated by two small embattled democracies. In the not too distant future the political face of the eastern end of the coast will change out of recognition.
First, comment about the map. In compiling the map, I have deliberately avoided providing any colour to it. Colour on maps generally tends to be associated with political orientations. Two of the countries, Egypt and Tunisia, have barely begun to address the present, so recent is the downfall of their respective dictators, and a third, Libya, has not yet entered the present. With the will of the people of Libya, and a police force action to enforce the United Nations Security Council -mandated No Fly Zone, the forces weighed against Colonel Gaddafi are better balanced than they were just three days ago. While the prospect of success is by no means a foregone conclusion, the odds of its success are considerably greatened, no doubt, regrettably, attended by further loss of life and destruction to property, undoubtedly caused by the forces of Colonel Gaddafi and those implementing the No Fly Zone.
Let each of the three nations project their own colour onto the map. Besides, the largely white of the map is indicative of the clean sheet of paper situation that each country finds itself in, as it begins to build a fully realized democratic state, this being especially so of Libya.
In choosing this moment to compile and publish this map, a strong moral uplift is provided to the people of the country at the centre of the map, so terribly embattled in an effort to unseat their dictator, the achievement of which, will swing open wide open the door to their future.
In conceiving of this article and its attendant map, I had one overriding thought, which we will presently explore. Before we can do so, there are some other considerations to be made.
Being Good Neighbours
Almost certainly, it is too early to consider what the political and diplomatic impact on the region, and on the world beyond, will be, of the presences of the three states emerging as robust democracies with substantial and growing economies.
One overriding factor weighed with me, perhaps prematurely, to attempt the article. This factor becomes immediately apparent when you give the three states, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, a tripartite relationship as I will attempt to do in a moment.
Whatever, as individual states, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, choose as their future foreign policy, and their relationship with other nations in the region and elsewhere, there is one obvious set of policies which are going to change beyond recognition the three countries. The bilateral policy changes for each country towards neighbours will be substantial. They pale, however, beside the potential impact of trilateral policies that the three nations could adopt toward each other and adopt jointly.
The scenario of a trilateralism has huge potential impact on the region, and particularly for each of the three individual states. It is entirely worthwhile putting aside other matters, to consider solely the potential of this for each of the states.
In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, each, up to a matter of a few weeks ago, had, as its head of state, a dictator who had a political posture which allowed for full development of a political and policy stance and engagement with its neighbours.
In the case of Egypt, this had a profound effect upon the region, whether seen as stabilizer or not; namely its relationship with Israel. Both countries exhibited, and maintained, a fairly friendly relationship with most countries in the region, at least in recent times. Both countries enjoyed good relations with Western counties, in particular, Egypt’s relationship with the United States.
I have chosen, for the purpose of this article, to put aside questions of what these relationships might be in the near future, for the more immediate one of potential tripartite arrangements between the three.
It would not be unfair to note that these questions of relations with other states is not insubstantial, particularly where Egypt’s future relationship with the United States and Israel is concerned.
Just as the now ex-presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were willing, and able, to seek and maintain good relations with neighbours, the still present head of state of Libya, recent disavowals of that fact by him notwithstanding, was not. In fact, the contrary has been true. Not only was the head of the state of Libya unable, and certainly unwilling, to attempt to maintain anything like normal relations with his neighbours, he has been regarded by the West as being something of a pariah for most of his 41 years in office, and, indeed, at certain points during its length, he enjoyed the dubious distinction of being regarded as a terrorist head of state.
Nor is all this simply true, but the society he founded in the wake of the deposing of the king and which he has continued to maintain, is one of a closed society. For more than 40 years, Libya has been not much more than a large hole on the floor of the region’s geopolitical map. This has severely hampered the development of both the country of Libya, and the region, in a number of significant ways.
I am going to put these aside except for one which bears quite a great deal on our present discussion. This huge hole in the Earth’s surface, so to speak, between the countries of Egypt and Tunisia, forced Tunisia to look towards its neighbors, since something of a vacuum existed to its East, on the northern coast of Africa. This aspect is quite without the scope of the present article. That position has quite a lot to do with how that situation is about to change substantially.
Democratic Compared to Whom?
In considering what relations Egypt, Libya and Tunisia might have, if they are each of them to become fully fledged democracies, I am reminded of the positions the countries Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia enjoyed at the dissolution of Communism.
Among a number of similarities is the contiguous nature of the three fairly small states, one of which had been subject to extensive colonization by Russia which maintained a polity of relocating large numbers of Russian citizens into Estonia, which then become essentially an occupied country. I mention this only to say that Estonia was brutalized, as Libya has been, albeit in a rather different manner. Comparisons should not be stretched too far, for, whereas Libya, Tunisia and Egypt share a common language, the three Baltic states do not.
All of this notwithstanding, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have a lot offer their Southern Mediterranean brethren as to the trials and setbacks encountered by any state seeking to transition from subjugation to full democracy. All three of the Middle Eastern countries could, when the time comes, do worse than look for advise and support to any of the three ex-Communist controlled states. By any measure, they have achieved full democracy, as measured against their Western European neighbours, and rather well ahead of some of the other ex-Communist controlled countries to their East.
Having weighed at some length the considerations which have led us to the present point of discussion, it is a matter of fairly short order to identity the possibilities that lie ahead for the two states newly unleashed from despotic control, and the other within spitting distance of doing so.
If we start with Tunisia, her established relationships with the countries to her West are unlikely to be affected should Tunisia choose, when conditions prevail, to consider a range of options now potentially available to her which previously were not: the emergence of Libya as a fledgling democracy.
To travel east along the coast of the southern Mediterranean, we have to skip over the hole, which, still to some measure, constitutes Libya, to Egypt, where we find that the question of an extensive border with Libya is itself compelling reason to be ready when the time comes to evaluate a range of possibilities.
Putting aside, for ease of discussion the nature and extent of the bilateral relations which Libya might form with each of the individual countries lying to either side of her on the coast of the Southern Mediterranean, it is the range of trilateral arrangements that are of particular interest. This lies not least in the fact that the three countries considered together constitute a democratic and economic force to be reckoned with in the not too unforeseeable future.
We have to acknowledge that the grounds for the suppositions being made for the basis of this article are shaky indeed. Despite this, t not make them means that we are less prepared than we might be had we not. And no harm comes from having done so.
Realizing Ambitions, Stating Aims
Stepping aside for a moment, let’s note the basis on which we are supporting the case for each of the nations being considered as emergent democracies with the will of the people being clearly expressed in the acts and calls being made from the streets and squares.
In the case of both Tunisia and Egypt, there was opportunity for the youth in each country who, if they did not lead each country to the position each presently occupies, certainly gave, and continues to give, its political direction. Both countries, in the hours and days leading up to the overthrow of the respective head of state, expressed a clear and unequivocal will and a very similar set of demands: those of full and fair elections, a secular democracy, with a well constituted representational government. The demands were, and are still being, made repeatedly and loudly, and echoed in countless twitters which, in the case of Egypt, the government vainly sought to suppress.
Libya, rather to everyone’s surprise, after a few days of demonstrations, starting February 17, 2011, saw these demonstrations transformed into an uprising which swept across the country, as a lightly armed popular insurgency, largely unopposed by the regime, got to within reasonable distance of Tripoli, having gathered up town after town on the way.
A completely unintended consequence of this has been that the calls and demands for full democracy were suspended, as the youth got caught up with their brethren in low grade insurgency, which the government in Tripoli has resorted to attempting to quash with greater and greater levels of violence, each level being more obscene than the last.
As of this writing, therefore, it remains a matter of faith that Libya, having finally decapitated the head of state, and dismembered the body of the regime, will unequivocally embark, with the greatest vigour, on the creating and makings of a sound and fully fledged democracy.
Therefore, taking this act of faith at face value, it does the parties involved no harm, not the least that of Libya, to consider what, were the three countries to become democracies of even the most basic sort, the possibilities, when considering trilateralism, for each country might be.
Having spent so much time on the considerations that got us here, the possibilities can be addressed fairly quickly, which is as well, since they remain somewhat distant, and with due acknowledgement of the fact that the foundation upon which all of this is erected, is not yet in place.
Therefore, assuming the emergence of democracies of largely similar aims and outlook, and it is difficult to posit anything else, given the stated aims of the youth in each of the countries, and given that in the case of Libya, this is not thwarted by other forces at play with the departure of the present head of state, the possibilities might be outlined as follows.
Working Together, Mutual Gains
The effect of having given due consideration to the aforegoing is that we are now well placed to narrow the focus on what I have chosen to put at the heart of this article: trilateralism for democratic Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
It is not necessary to try to suggest all the possible forms that trilateralism for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya might take. It is sufficient to suggest a few examples for other possibilities to occur to alert readers.
So, a short list might include:
A military pact
An agreement on joint arms procurement and agreement on shared use of resources and facilities
A harmonization of military procedures and protocols
A jointly developed arms industry
A joint declaration to the region as the nature and intentions of such a military force toward its neighbours as to when and how it would be used
A joint expression of shared aims on policy and attitude to issues of concern to the world community
A harmonization between the three countries as to the shared concerns of border control, cross border movements of money, police action, extradition of criminals, passport control, and so on
Diplomatic measures with the regional and international bodies and joint agreement on international initiatives
A foundational vision of an economic union with all the various aspects that this would entail
Educational, social, and religious matters addressed by the formation of inter-government and nongovernment agencies
The agreement of sound fiscal and monetary policies to allow the three countries to better weather the vagaries to which they would be subject during economic downturns
Emergency response to member governments, and to governments elsewhere who require help
The sharing and harmonization of labour laws in recognition of the large numbers of inter-country labour movements
Basic Questions Answered
It might be wondered why military matters are at the head of the list. The short answer is that the security of a state of its borders, of its citizenry and of its ability to repel aggressors, is one of the first duties of a state. Furthermore, a democratic state, in order to secure its existence and ability to exist among its neighbours peacefully, so that its daily business can be continued unhampered, has, as first order of business, to ensure that it has the arms and means to do so. Should there be any doubt as to this, I point to the examples of Switzerland and Sweden in Europe, and of India in the East.
It should not require pointing out to my present audience that dictators frequently require the military support of others, in order to secure their continuance as head of state, and this military support is most visible in the supply of arms.
While it may be regrettable to countenance military matters, they are a reality. Means by which a country protects itself are matters of vital importance. For any of you still skeptical on this point, allow me to direct your attention to recent events in Egypt. When the Egyptian state withdrew the police from the streets, the citizenry, by force of necessity, elected to maintain neighborhood watch committees.
The democratic states of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are in no less a position that you in your neighborhood, with the vital distinction that the protection of the country must be by itself for itself.
You do not want, as a state, to have anyone tell you what to do, far less than by means of force.
Whatever efforts have historically been made to bring together states in the region, the compelling nature of the advantages of trilateralism make their adoption inevitable, provided, of course, that the dialogue is being conducted by democratic states. To what extent and when are likely matters for both history and further discussion.