Scenarios help us use our imagination. I heard and read several commentators who said something along the lines of: “we would never have chosen Tunisia as the starting point for revolution. No one could have seen this coming”
That is because we are not looking. We must pay attention to the world around us in deep and profound ways. We use our imagination too little when thinking about the future in general, and the Middle East in specific. It is very unlikely that the governments of Tunisia or Egypt considered their downfall from anything but violent, Islamist action – or more likely, more subtle actions by military leaders or relatives. That food and freedom, work and the desire to wonder, would drive the shift we are witnessing were beyond their experience. Dictators do not traffic in understanding the human spirit – and they are always surprised by how resilient it is, how deep its memory. The Middle East is a very different place today. But we must not assume that the powers for good will triumph. The unrest has created entirely new uncertainties about the future, some of which may be resolved quickly, others that may take years or decades to resolve. Consider the following uncertainties.
- What form of government will emerge?
- What role will Islam play in the new governments? Will any of the governments be secular, separating religion and the state?
- What role will Hamas play, Al Qaeda,Hezbollah (in taking advantage of the chaos)? [revised, add Iran…NYT: Iran Sees Rise of Islamic Hard-Liners in Arab Lands ]
- What position on Israel will the new governments take?
- Will Israel play a positive role, and been seen in a positive way, during transformation?
- What industries could be disrupted, over what periods of time?
- What is the affect on world oil supplies?
- Ultimately, which countries will be involved?
- How long will it take for resolution?
- Will the UN, Nato or any other external Military organization become involved in any of the internal unrest?
- Will the emerging governments adopt sustainability and self-sufficiency in economics and agriculture moving forward?
- What role with the Suez Canal play?
- Can Egypt protect its historical artifacts and cultural heritage effectively?
- Will the G20 support the fledgling democratic movements quickly enough to ensure their survival?
- Will the world allow the emergent governments to define their own unique brand of democracy?
- Will leaders emerge quickly—leaders who can frame the future in a way that allows them to make strategic choices?
What would you add to the list?