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From Gaga to Tripoli

As people walk the empty weekend Washington streets to their traditional brunch spots, there's plenty on the menu to chew on.
Last modified: 27 Feb 2011 18:41
Photo by EPA

From Oscar fever to Lady Gaga's pyrotechnic two piece (yes, fireworks detonating from her midriff), the Sunday papers make an interesting read in Washington DC, to say the least. So as people walk the empty weekend streets to their traditional brunch spots, there's plenty on the menu to chew on.

Whether or not it matters that top films like The King's Speech do not stick to historical truth, to the transluscent rubber dress Lady Gaga wore. 

Perhaps some will move more seriously, to the ever developing situation in Libya.

And as the rebels look to Tripoli, the Washington Post ponders this question:

"It can't happen in Saudi Arabia. Right?"

(http://wapo.st/fTCGhL)

A Facebook page is calling for a "day of rage" protest in Saudi on March 11.

US-Saudi expert Rachel Bronson, while acknowledging it's dangerous to predict events in the Middle East, believes the components of rapid, revolutionary change are not yet present in the country. Which is a good thing, given US interests.

The United States has a great deal at stake in Saudi Arabia, though Americans often look at the Saudis with distaste. As one senior Saudi government official once asked me: "What does the United States share with a country where women can't drive, the Koran is the constitution and beheadings are commonplace?" It's a tough question, but the answer, quite simply, is geopolitics..."

As Rachel points out too the Saudi King has the goodies to throw at his people to keep them in check. But the problems are apparent.

 When I met then-Crown Prince Abdullah in 1999, he told a group of us that unemployment was "the number one national security problem that Saudi Arabia faced." He was right then and remains right now...still, many of the king's key policy decisions - joining the World Trade Organization, creating new cities with more liberal values, promoting education and particularly study abroad - have sought to solve these problems. The country may be on a very slow path toward modernization, but it is not sliding backward like many others in the Middle East."

David Ignatius in the same pages takes us to Syria, a country "trying the keep the lid on revolution". (http://wapo.st/hc0bvX)

For now the streets of Damscus are mostly full of shoppers, not protestors. But if the experience of other countries over the past two months shows anything, it's that delaying reform too long in a one-party state like Syria is potentially a fatal mistake."

Two columns across Robert D Kaplan, a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security, looks to the future and suggests that countries with relatively strong institutional traditions such as Tunisia and Egypt, may well develop a form of democracy (http://wapo.st/ftSjOB).

But places that are less states than geographical expressions, such as Libya and Yemen, are more likely to produce hybrid regimes ... the process produces incoherence and instability even as it combines attributes of authoritarianism and democracy. This is not anarchy so much as groping towards a new modernity."