Tunisian Takedown

Here's my analysis so far of how this apparent miracle occurred. Although please bear in mind that the fact that I thought of it as a miracle rather than inevitable, shows that my previous understanding was flawed, so perhaps you should take this with a grain of salt. Note that it is a normal part of the scientific process to be proven wrong, acknowledging that, and reexamining assumptions/logic.

First, here is someone else's analysis, and the money quote is this:

"To say that social-media was a key part of the revolution does not necessarily mean that people used GPS-enabled phones to coordinate demonstrations; that is simplistic and misses the point in which social media shapes the environment in general."

And here is Wikipedia's timeline. What's understated is the 2nd Jan Anonymous "press release" where they contacted lots of lazy journalists, who then gave Tunisia pride of place in news coverage.

My guess is that once the Tunisians found that they were important enough to make it to the international news, and if they were going to die, at least their death would be recognized (I think this is crucial), they were more willing to go out onto the streets.

That still doesn't answer how being on the streets was enough though. It didn't help the Iranians any.

I only occasionally and briefly read the news these days for that reason - I'm really not interested in floods and droughts and futile protests when I know the military equation. Basically at some level this is a glorified military coup. Sufficient people in the military made a decision to back the people rather than the dictator. No idea how that happened though. The police seem to have been well-selected for die-hard regime loyalty. Perhaps the US training of the Tunisian military helped put competent rather than loyal people into the right place?

Regardless, I can't remember seeing Tunisia in the news (ie BBC News website), or if it was, then it was some minor thing that I probably didn't even read. Riots and protests are par for the course and usually a complete waste of time and I have better things to do with my time, basically. I've been releasing some major pieces of software. Well, I consider them to be major. But then I consider Message 666 to be major, while others think it is of no significance whatsoever (which pretty much means that either I am a complete idiot for spending decades of effort to come to that conclusion, all for nothing, or they are complete idiots for not even recognizing it for what it is - much less do the analysis themselves).

So it was only when I saw headlines about a friggin president fleeing the country did I realise that this was different. Perhaps at some level - shame on me for not doing what Anonymous was doing on 2nd January. They were literally doing the correct moral action at the time. The perfect moral action, basically - running Tor bridges and DOS attacks on the dictatorship. Even though I wasn't doing the perfect moral action myself (I was instead focussed on breaking the back of the IBM and Microsoft monopolies, as well as providing a universal languages for computing - mission only accomplished on 2011-01-01) at that time, I at least recognize it, and I was in fact ignorant of what was possible, and thus had a defeatist attitude.

I also don't have a problem with people who opposed the Iraq war out of ignorance, but once explained to them, they switch sides. I can remember an American saying something along the lines of "coming to absurd conclusions" on one of the Iraqi blogs, after seeing these happy free Iraqis. So too, I came to an apparently absurd conclusion that nothing could be done to assist a revolution, and thus it needed to wait for the western military to get through their long list of targets. Or in the case of a military coup, once again, nothing could be done. I was also wrong in the fact that you can get some of this stuff onto the media. I can remember the Dec 2003 Iraqi protests being covered up by the media (other than a brief mention on Fox). That was a cruel tragedy in itself. But apparently at some level we can make common cause with the left-wing media.

As far as I know, Tunisia is an unknown, so we can't yet gauge whether we are sitting on a hot-bed of Islamic radicals or diehard commies as to why the left-wing media would be willing to cover it. ie we are both stepping into the void together, but I think it is better to take that step, and hopefully things will resolve in time (the military options of both de-Nazification and nuclear extermination remain available for decades still if it turns out to be a gross error of judgement - not that our judgement has had any influence anyway). I wouldn't have expended the political and military capital on a war of liberation for Tunisia. Not yet. But now that it's happened, all focus should be on solidifying this gain. I don't see any more urgent need at this time unless you're willing to go to war with some dangerous entities like Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. Those countries playing with nukes are the absolute highest priority if they can be taken out. But with western governments forcing western militaries to stand down, no progress can be made on those fronts. Hence - focus on Tunisia.

Can this be replicated? Don't know. Will this be a success (measured as multi-party democracy, not measured against Switzerland)? Don't know. Were the extra hidden factors, e.g. the CIA bribing people in the Tunisian military to take the side of the people? Don't know. Note - that would have been the moral action for the CIA to be taking, if they could do it without jeapordizing any other more critical projects - but I don't see anything jeapordized.

Anyway, there are now some tough choices - can countries like Libya be done next? Anonymous is mulling over that. I'm still deeply skeptical about how successful this can be in the future. Science generally requires more than one data point, which is all we have, before you can start analyzing what the common factors are, so that it can be replicated. But if we can even just secure this one single victory - freedom for 10 million people - that will be enough. It is, literally, history. For facebook etc to have a hand in a successful revolution it really is unprecedented history. We've seen other militaries willing to change sides too, e.g. in Romania. So I'm more keen on making sure we get Facebook 1 on the scoreboard rather than a random result of Facebook 0 and Fall of Middle Eastern Dictatorship 1. But that "bird in the hand" approach is not really science. It's too vague to measure. Too many unknowns. We could be sitting on a golden opportunity if only x, y and z are done. The only thing I know will work for sure is military power, but we have real-world constraints that are preventing that from being used, so if there's a glimmer of hope in x, y and z, then that avenue needs to be explored.

I still haven't made contact with English-language Tunisian bloggers though. The closest I have so far is someone from Tunisia currently studying in France. Still working on it.

Hope, tempered by great danger.

However, one thing that does give me grounds for optimism is actual fighting between the Tunisian military and regime police. Once killing like that is underway, people are more likely to follow through for face-saving or repercussions or whatever (people rarely change their mind). So if the military has already committed itself to fighting on the side of the people, then it's a slam dunk that they will win. Still a very good chance that the head of the military will decide that portraits of himself all over the streets would be a welcome sight. Grrrrr. There are offers of assistance from places like the EU. We know that Afghanistan was finessed. A softly softly and some hefty bribes or something, anything, behind the scenes, may be able to save the day.

But at the end of the day, I'm at a loss as to how to see this through to victory. Iraq was a no-brainer. I explained to morons again and again that the new Iraqi government was an invincible force, but morons again and again persisted in believing goons with headbands could defeat it. Not so Tunisia. The internal angles at play are completely unknown as far as I am aware. There's probably an Al Sadr in there somewhere. And a Saddam. And a Mithal Al Alusi. It always depressed me that the Chinese had so many revolutions in history and never once installed a democracy. I hope Tunisia doesn't end up being another depressing moment in world history. Right now, my money is on Tunisia being a success. I believe that in 10 years from now we'll see a Tunisia with multi-party elections, freedom of speech, and a noisy parliament. Maybe Tunisia can even be better than Iraq. Let's see! Whatever you do, don't pray. See if you can find some action to take!

P.S. Blogger got the wrong daylight saving time. Meant to be 18th

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