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Expert alert: The end of Middle East dictators?

Syria, Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya — countries with authoritarian regimes that are facing or have faced popular uprisings this year. Has the Middle East come to a point where dictators in the region recognize that their days are numbered? James Le Sueur, UNL professor of history and a scholar of the region, looks at why long-standing dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi tend to cling to power so long, even in the face of overwhelming public sentiment. Video of Dr. Le Sueur on Mideast dictators

What happens to these dictators and how did they get into this position of holding onto power for too long? I tend to think this has to do with a concept I like to think about as Post-Colonial Time Disorder. These leaders can’t think outside the framework in which they came to power. In the 1950s and the 1960s, a period of post-colonialism, that framework was influenced by the emerging policies of the new nation-state. It was also influenced by a desire for that nation to hold onto sovereignty and unity through a strong-willed authoritarian type.

That leadership no longer works. It’s clear that the broader pushes for change this year have taught us that people can no longer accept a dictator who thinks he should stay in power because he believes he represents the national will. Those days are clearly over — from Syria to Egypt to Libya to Tunisia and so on.

We’ve seen populations rise up against those authoritarian leaders who simply refuse to move out from this Post-Colonial Time Syndrome and into the modern era, which embraces democratization and political reform. The effects of that stagnation, and the effects of the refusal to listen to the population calling for change leads us to people like Gaddafi, who simply refuse to see the nation outside of himself.

Muammar Gaddafi will forever stand as a symbol of egoism, of national pride, in some cases — but also a problem that one must analyze and simply overcome. the Arab Spring now turns to Fall, and all we can do now is wait.”

Contact Dr. Le Sueur for an interview at 402.472.3255 or jlesueur2@unl.edu. See a video of Dr. Le Sueur discussing the state of Middle Eastern dictators.

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