Crisis Group proposals following Tunisia attacks miss opportunity for provoking robust discussion
The international crisis group’s Mikhail Ayari I think misses a key opportunity here to propose some desperately needed, bold solutions and to force a discussion about how to prevent Tunisia from fracturing in the next period.
My core problem is that ICG and Ayari have recommended not going hard and aggressive in a reform of the security sector and the essential corruption of the parallel state.
Without that effort now and not later, the Tunisian economy will not move again and the security sector will not be able to protect the country. I detailed a different approach and these criticisms here last September:
Yet strangely, the search for alternative approaches to stem Tunisia’s decline doesn’t seem to be particularly of the moment in New York, Washington, Brussels, or any Mediterranean capital. To cite but one example, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recently outlined how “a dysfunctional internal security apparatus” in Tunisia was failing and had to be “thorough(ly) reformed”:
Without an Internal Security Force (ISF) reform that would allow for the formulation of a holistic security strategy, Tunisia will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis as its regional environment deteriorates and political and social tensions increase, at the risk of sinking into chaos or a return to dictatorship.
Brushing aside the full implications of its own dire predictions, ICG then went on to propose more of the same remedies that might have made sense in the 2011-2013 period: The parallel state, and especially its manifestations in the security sector, needs to be brought into the democratic process since “a head-on fight between the ISF and the political class is a dead end.” Rather than “impos(ing) their vision on the Internal Security Forces,” the report asserted, Tunisia’s democrats needed to somehow “channel the ISF’s desire for independence,” cooperate with it and offer “encourage(ment).”
It is time to recognize the situation as it is: There may be a rare chance to build a robust, non-corrupt democracy in the Middle East. But a “head on fight” that aims to dismantle Tunisia’s de facto triangle of power—the police, their associated business elites, and the mafia—is the only credible way to move forward and the only way left to prevent yet another disaster in a region that can’t bear it anymore.