This morning Fareed Sakaria noted the need to view the words of politicians as being politically motivated and within a political context. When a politician speaks, we need to consider the intended audience and remember the political context. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley, and others observed that this week’s anti-West and anti-U.S. actions, resulting in destruction of U.S. property and the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, three other Americans, and uncounted others in more than 20 countries, was the act of a large group of people, who collectively represented a small minority of the residents of those countries.
The violent acts are troubling, disappointing, even enraging, but to respond against those nations as if the nations have attacked the U.S. would be as misguided, even ignorant, as the apparent inciting of the violence by a rumored anti-Islam film as being representative of and endorsed by the U.S. and the West collectively. The West, and particularly the U.S., needs to respond, but that response must have focus, on the perpetrators and their leaders not the general population. The identity of the perpetrators may be difficult to ascertain.
The Arab Spring phenomenon awakened unrest long nearly dormant because freedoms of speech and expression were historically more constrained than today. The protests somehow connected to this ill-advised film, if it exists, simply would likely not have been possible less than twelve months ago in any of the countries where embassies and consulates have been attacked. Somehow the countries that could suppress expression under previous regimes are no longer capable of providing security to the diplomatic community. That seems likely to be an indication of lack of will onthe part of government officials and community leaders.
Despite the lack of will or ability by leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere, little or no evidence appears to indicate that the people in these countries have animosity toward the United States, the West, our leaders, or our citizens. On the contrary, every current indication is that the perpetrators are not representative of the the general population and at least some of the elected leaders. More to the point, the acts of violence seem to be more likely the result of a fringe element as unhappy with their new leaders as with the West and taking advantage of too many young people with not enough tondo as a result of high unemployment among the young, countries and regions desperate for leadership, and economies in desperate need of sustainable change.
Two links, parts 1 and 2 of a lecture I gave to the University of Phoenix Leadership Colloquium. 500 doctoral learners and faculty from Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies registered. I have another 10-20 minutes of responses to questions posed during the lecture and am constructing a document drawn from online discussions during the week before and the week after the lecture.
In the August 22, 2011 issue of Time, Thornburgh, Adams, Assinder, Cooke, Mayer, and Grose (2011) noted some similarities between the economic situation in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Tunisia, and the United States. While Thornburgh et al. focused on the violence and unrest in the United Kingdom, he observed that the United States has more income distribution inequality than the United Kingdom although more people in the United States seem more optimistic about their economic prospects than their U. K. counterparts.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that income distribution inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, was 0.26 in Sweden; 0.30 in Germany and Australia; 0.32 in Greece, in Canada, in Japan, and in Spain; 0.34 in the U.K.; 0.35 in Italy; and 0.36 in Portugal. By comparison, the Gini was 0.38 for the United States and Yemen, 0.43 in Turkey; 0.47 in Mexico; 0.34 for Egypt, 0.40 for Tunisia, 0.42 for Syria and for Iraq, and 0.4 for Jordan.
Another apparent measure of potential unrest seems to be unemployment in various demographic groups. Table 1 shows the unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds and overall and measures of national debt, % GDP of exports, and % college graduates.
Unemployment, national debt, export, import, and college graduation levels by country.
|Country||Unemployment15-24||UnemploymentTotal||National Debt % GDP||Export % GDP||Import % GDP||% College Graduates|
Income inequality may not be a predictor of anarchy, unrest, or revolt. Egypt, Greece, and the United Kingdom each experienced unrest in 2011 and had lower Gini coefficients than the United States, while Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq each have more income inequality and have experienced unrest in 2011. Then we have Germany, Australia, Canada, and Mexico with less or more income inequality and no apparent unrest, at least unrest related to economic disparity.
The official unemployment rate for all working age people and young people in the United States is lower than in most economically-developed countries and, for most Western countries, is lower than in most economically-developing countries, including countries experiencing unrest and anarchy in 2011. The exception seems to be the United Kingdom. Unemployment rates seem to predict unrest, like the 2011 Arab Spring, but most of the Western world does not seem to be nearing an Arab Spring on the basis of lack of employment.
Likewise, national debt as a percentage of GDP, national budget deficit as a percentage of total budget, and exports and imports as a percentage of GDP do not seem to predict national unrest and anarchy.
Table 2 shows human rights (for 2010 compiled by FreedomHouse.org), and corruption, democracy, and press freedom (compiled by WorldAudit.org) for these same countries. Table 2 also includes World Economic Forum rankings of national competitiveness cited by Schumann and Hauslohner (2011).
2010-2011 Relative human rights, corruption, democracy, press freedom, and national competitiveness rankings by country.
|Country||Human Rights||Corruption||Democracy||Press Freedom||National Competitiveness|
The data in Table 2 seems to be a better indicator of anarchy, unrest, or revolt. Three tiers of countries seem to emerge. Most at risk, based on the 2010-2011 data in Table 2, are Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Each of these countries has experienced some level of unrest in 2011. At moderate risk, based on this same data, are Greece, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey with France and Portugal nearby. Likely not at risk for anarchy, unrest, or revolt in the near future are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
So, are the United States and Western Europe at risk for an “Arab Spring”-like event in the near future? The data does not seem to support a prediction of unrest in most of Western Europe, the United States (or the other countries of North America, Mexico and Canada), or in Australia or Japan. The data seems to point to legitimate concern about the potential for unrest in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey with France and Portugal worthy of attention. This analysis should not be interpreted as suggesting that people in countries with an indication of low or moderate risk will not demand change related to the national economy, employment opportunities, and effective leadership, but only may indicate comparative risk.
Schumann, M. & Hauslohner, A. (2011, August 22). Seeking growth after the Arab Spring. Unless it can nurture entrepreneurs and create jobs, the popular movement that toppled dictates won’t make a difference in real lives. Time, 178(7), B1-B6.
Thornburgh, N., Adams, W., Assinder, N., Cooke, S., Mayer, C., & Grose, T. (2011, August 22). London’s long burn. An outbreak of arson, looting and lawlessness caught Britain and it’s leaders by surprise. Why they should have seen the troubles coming. Time, 178(7), 28-31.