Foreign policy expert Jack Goldstone's arrival on the Luther College campus this week was incredibly timely, given the daily headlines from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries.
On Thursday afternoon a large crowd jammed into the Mott-Borlaug room at Luther to hear Goldstone describe the events of the past month. "This is about freedom," he told the audience, predicting that the protesters are not going to back down.
But Goldstone drew a distinction between the various Arab countries. He says the countries most at risk for revolution are those with aging dictators, such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. He says constitutional monarchies such as Saudi Arabia Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain are less likely to see regime changes. Goldstone says that's because the dictators have taken steps to continue their rule that actually make revolution easier: they weaken their armed forces to prevent coups and keep the lines of succession cloudy or in the family, so there isn't a possible challenger to their rule. But that also means that once people begin to mobilize against the region, rifts show up in the military and in the ruling class.
Earlier, in an interview with decorahnews.com, Goldstone said the changes in the Arab world are being driven by changes in demographics. Young Arabs in their 20s and 30s are upset that they can't vote and have their paths to good jobs blocked by the dictators. That means there's a large cohort of young people who join together to try to transform their country.
Goldstone says not only are many North Africa countries in this same situation, but the same demographics are playing out in Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia. He says this mix of frustration, anger and humiliation forms "water building up behind a dam" that can release in the form of revolution.