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Chapter 3

Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos

Theory Uprising or Revolution

Nilhan Akaln and Cemal Alpgiray Blcek

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of a horse, the rider was lost;
For want of a rider, the battle was lost;
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost!

Abstract Arab Spring can be considered as one of the most remarkable events
in the history of world politics. On December 18, 2010, a Tunisian young protestor
burned himself in a public square of the city. This event triggered probably one
of the most chaotic and long term uprisings in the Middle East. From the day of
its initiation until the present, Arab Spring in the Middle East created unstable
political situation and several uprisings. In this chapter, we will first give general
information about chaos theory, and then we will examine the butterfly effect
created by the Tunisian young protestor and process of Arab Spring in the Middle
East regarding its extend and form in those countries within the framework of
chaos theory. For the first part of this chapter, the spark created by the Tunisian
young protestor and its effects can be analyzed under butterfly effect perspective
within chaos theory, arguing whether the events followed each other consecutively
or randomly. The question is whether the incidents following each other have
reasonable links of causality to one another, or the events defining the phenomena
known as Arab Spring have no predictable reasons and outcomes regardless of


Akaln ()
Department of the International Relations, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
C.A. Blcek
Department of History, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
S. Banerjee et al. (eds.), Chaos Theory in Politics, Understanding
Complex Systems, DOI 10.1007/978-94-017-8691-1__3,
Springer ScienceCBusiness Media Dordrecht 2014




Akaln and C.A. Blcek

the regional, social and political differences. The events caused the collapse of the
regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; they had very serious outcomes.
However, current approaches generally fail in defining the panorama clearly,
which does not help in finding a way out. The change started with young protestors
rushing the streets and resulted in a completely new order, which resulted in
somewhat greater turmoil in these countries, which was somewhat unpredictable
through chain of causality. From the beginning to the end of the butterfly effect,
an analysis of present day situation raised the unpredictability to a new level. With
the help of chaos theory, which has lately but very usefully revealed itself in social
studies, phenomena of Arab Spring is observed for discovering whether it is a new
beginning for Middle Eastern countries with consecutive and predictable outcomes,
or is a path to a much more devastating Arab Winter just knocking the door.
Keywords Arab spring Chaos theory Egypt Syria International relations
theory Social media Interdependency

3.1 Introduction
Twenty-first century will always be remarkable for the international events within.
Although humanity did not experience a third world war, conflict and war became
much more apparent in daily life within different forms. Emerging security threats
are not unknown to human experience, but particularly the events in Tunisia, Egypt
and other countries are completely new for us. Some journalist and scholars claim
that events in those countries are not unique. It is more or less a simple fight for
freedom; however it happened at an unexpected time and place. Then Arab Spring
as a new concept entered our life. The term Arab Spring has a framework both
have positive connotations and at the same time certain shortcomings for defining
the panorama in the Middle East recently. Surely triggered by a number of motives,
countries, governments and people were under intense pressure created by the social
and political events of this framework. Ordinary newspaper readers or those who
follow TV broadcast or social media became properly informed that the term Arab
Spring suggests certain social and political events such as uprisings and rebellious
attempts to overthrow existing governments, following a path to liberal democratic
values and virtues that hardly have existed in the Middle East for decades.
In as much as change became eminent, perceptions of the old-established regimes
in the Middle East seemed dramatically changed, or to be more accurate, people
realized they can change the fate of their country. This was a general perception and
from bottom to top demonstrations determined the demise of the Middle Eastern
dictatorial governments. This was a civil leap from the traditional international
desire of stability to a new desire of democratic change. In other words, what was
called stability in the Middle East no more found an echo in the international
society and lost receiving of international support. The lead of the international
decision taking was the U.S. interests which no longer could tolerate the dictatorial
regimes in the Middle East. The U.S. President Barack Obama is seen as a supporter
of this change, who changed the fate of social uprisings unexpectedly high.

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


The term Arab Spring cannot perfectly summarize this unexpected chain
of events in the Middle East, since the territories realizing the change were not
populated by uniform motivated and locked on Arab people only. Foreign Policy
writer Marc Lynch coined the term probably because he was inspired by the
terminology used to define and describe regenerations such as Prague Spring
of 1968 and the Revolutions of 1989, probably the word spring, instead of
another seasonal nomination, is chosen to create positive indication and a sense
of rejuvenation at the social and political levels. The leaders of the demonstrations
have many state and non-state rivals and opposing counterparts. This explanation
may seem naive, but indeed, regarding the various political and social motives
in the realm of turmoil, the situation represented a lesser of the two evils case. Once
the uprisings started and spread through Northern Africa, Arabian Peninsula and
the Gulf, various and countless opposing groups, political parties, armed guerrilla,
social organizations, states armed forces, etc. either divided apart from each other
or united as different fronts in order to obtain strength and political power in a
cloudy and misty social environment.
The Tunisian protests were the ignition. In first sense, burning himself of
Muhammed Bauzazi named ordinary uprising in Tunisia however it was more
than that. It is only kind of trigger of coming events. Protests were getting bigger
and violently day by day. Not so long time, in January 2011 President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali had to resign his office after 13 years of dictatorship. There was
no expectation protesting and even Zine El Abidines resignation would spread to
other Arab countries. Egypt, Libya and Yemen followed Tunisian protests, almost
imitating the nature of that original demonstration. Once more, events surprised
whole world. By inspiration from Tunisia, the first month of 2011 was the scene
of unforgettable uprising through whole Arab country. Tahrir Square of Egypt and
city of Tripoli of Libya showed that Arab people have an intense desire for their
freedom. Arab Spring can be considered, still arguably, as a Big Bang of long years
reasons of corruption, poverty, inequality and oppression of authoritarian regimes.
The reasons behind Arab Spring are diverse and in a sense unique to each country;
however, the outcomes are similar to each other. Essentially, there was agreement
that the elements of vulnerability include a lethal combination of poverty, lack of
economic opportunity, and a repressive and disliked regime [5].
Not only domestic factors which encouraged Arab Spring but also various
perspectives of global stability in explanation of Arab Spring. In August 2010,
the Obama administration made a foreign policy shift towards the Middle East,
quitted supporting dictatorial stability, encouraged democracy and establishment of
democratic governments in the Arab world. Short term stability was creating a big
obstacle in front of long term stability which can only be achieved through liberal
democracy, fair elections, overthrowing the existing dictatorial regimes and replacing them with more tolerable and negotiable governments which represents their
peoples and acting in accordance with the needs and wishes of their societies. This
plan would create (and so created) a suitable atmosphere and a safe realm for ultimate and long term U.S. interests in the region. Political openness and democratic
governance meant integration to the democratic league of states, which was led
by the U.S. Thus, from the stability perspective, Obama administration decided to



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

support change and transition rather than mere stability in order to achieve long-term
stronger stability for serving its interests in the Middle East. Dictatorial stability,
however, aimed to restrain any change at the expense of interest of their wealth,
government comprehension, military pressure on the society and untouchability.
So, as the diversity of reasons indicates, here we are talking about nineteen
different Arab countries where protest and uprising happened regardless of their
size and effectiveness. Among these countries, effect of Arab Spring has been felt
in different levels. As we mentioned in first paragraph some of countries regimes
were overthrown by protestors especially these were the biggest ones. On the other
hand, some countries protesting were eliminated with changing government or
partial reforms such as UAE and Algeria. Some countries like Bahrain still suffered
from on-going protest and uprising. Unfortunately, Syria is the worst case because
the uprisings turned into civil war and number of casualties has increased day by
day. We can argue that Egypt has a special position within these countries because
although there is transition government, there are still huge protest against Mursi
who is the new president of Egypt.
There are many studies carried out and works been done about the nature and
progress of Arab Spring; however, this paper is intending to analyze Arab Spring
and its complex nature within the frame of chaos theory.

3.2 Order, Anarchy, Disorder and Chaos

This first part is devoted to provide an overview of discussion on order, anarchy,
disorder and chaos. We will try to draw main differences of theories how they
perceive these notion and of course last part will deal with how chaos is different
than others and how we annotate chaos theory in IR discipline. Firstly, the notion of
order is always debatable for theorists in the IR. The notion of order can be found
in term of international order which is also highly controversial in the context of
order and anarchy. We would not go deep into different views on order and anarchy,
just some blueprints of how different theories perceive order in IR. The oldest and
main theories realism and liberalism had completely different and basic arguments
on order. According to realist school, basically international system is anarchic,
it is impossible to talk about order which inspired by Hobbes. Donnelly state that
I use anarchy as it is ordinarily used in international relations literature, that is
literal sense of absence of rule, lack of government. Anarchy does not imply chaos,
absence of order; it is simply absence of hierarchical political order based on
formal subordination and authority [1]. Actually it is very controversial argument
Donnelly because he implied that anarchy never meant that chaos. At the same time,
it implies that disorder is not always mean chaos. The anarchy argument of realism
has been shared by many other theories however English school mostly focus on
English school discuss mainly order versus justice problem in IR. According
to Bull, there is a distinction between international system and international society.
International society is more complex than international system which imply a

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values and he
argued that the goal of preserving the sovereignty of each state has often clashed
with the common interest in preserving the balance of power [8]. Bull continued
with that time to in order to maintain order, justice was sacrificed. He gave example
as a sacrificing of Polish independence and attitude of LON in Abyssinia case. Also,
Bull claim that ideas on justice can be differentiated by each state but they all can
agree to maintain order. : : : purpose of international society is to promote order in
human society as a whole [8].
Constructivism also accepts realism argument of anarchical structure of international system with one exception. In famous words, anarchy what state makes of
it. In other words, constructivists claim that this anarchical system has been made
by actors and primarily states. On the other hand, Marxism suggests emancipation
from international order as a only way to survive. Mainly, as all we know
existed international order is the source of conflict thats why transforming the
international order is necessary. So, Marxism focuses on not only order itself but
also transforming order too.
So, order was sometimes used by opposite of anarchy, sometimes it was used
as indispensable element of international relations in different theories. Order as
a notion and its forms have been used in various different theories however, we just
want to draw a kind of frame which shows hoe field of IR discussed order. It is
obvious that conventional theories of IR are so limited to explain complexity and
dynamic structure of international system with terms of order, anarchy and disorder
and most of the time some of terms are used interchangeably but with different
meanings and implications. However, today international relations and its actors
have much more interdependence than they used to have. Also, globalization is the
most influenced on system, today individuals become separate actors and social
media is another stronger actor in the system or order what you call. In other words,
today we can talk about millions of actor and supranational power-social media
which mean international system has now tight network with many independent
and dependent variable. The fuel of globalization reshaped the structure and terms
naturally. It is obvious that international system should be analyzed more deep
and complex way thats why the next section of this chapter will provide general
framework of chaos theory and its possible application on international relations.

3.3 Chaos Theory An Alternative Way

The word of chaos literally means disorder and existence of turbulence [9]. Chaos
is hard to totally capture in nature. Related to its definition, it can occur in nonlinear
and dynamic systems. Because of its dynamic structure it has its own to power
generate a change. Chaos theory is subfield of mathematics normally but it has
different application to physics, engineering, economics and social sciences. It
was first proposed by Poincare in 1880s. Then it was developed by different
mathematicians and physicists. However, the main development of chaos theory



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

was fostered after invention of computers because they made easier to calculate
formulates. Early formulation of chaos was done by Lorenz. Interestingly, he found
chaos theory when he was trying to make weather prediction in 1961. Through
his analysis attempt, he noticed that even the minor differences in initial conditions
give completely different results. For example, he started to calculate with 0.506 and
then he changed as 0,506921 as an initial condition. It would be completely different
result in weather prediction. In other words, Lorenz noticed that this small amount
of changing and its effect will be huge in the system. So, chaos is very dependent on
its initial conditions it famously called butterfly effect which suggest that flutter
of butterflys wing in Beijing can be responsible for producing hurricane in South
America [12]. The sensitive dependence on initial conditions shows how a small
change at one place or moment in a nonlinear system can led to large differences to
a later state in the system.
This sensitiveness would lead two important features of chaotic systems which
are variety and unpredictability [7]. So, primary units-individuals can have wide
range effect on the system. On the contrary, we cannot say every primary unit will
have wide range effect on the systems. Although millions of primary units interact
each other at the same time, it would turn into storm.
In the case of international relations and chaos theory is not completely new
there are only few peoples to interest in. Most of workings are about analyzing
of international system as a chaotic environment. Diana Richards is the first who
suggested chaotic dynamics in international system in her A Chaotic Model of
Power Concentration in the international system. Richards make analyze with
Modelskis cycle theory and sea power and conclude that evolution of power is
chaotic process [9, 10]. Furthermore, Kissane described elements of chaotic international system and chaos as an alternative theory to explain nature of international
system. Kissane describe three elements of chaotic international system which are
nature of international system is chaotic, security seeking and interaction between
actors. According to Kissane, it is surely impossible to account for the actions of
every human on the planet and the implications of all of their actions on the wider
system, yet a chaotic system, by definition, is one in which such small permutations
at the individual level can affect the entire system and all other actors within it [6]
: : : the theorist has to make a choice as to which actors or level of inter-dependence
they will restrict their analysis to : : : [However] while it is necessary for the sake of
a comprehensible theory that the number and nature of the actors assessed is limited,
it is also antithetical to the chaotic approach to exclude actors, which may have a
significant effect on events in the system, so arbitrarily [7].

3.4 Chaos Theory and Arab Spring

It is impossible to make a total analysis of Arab Spring, since neither it is a
completed progress nor a template used to change regimes. Rather, it should be
considered as an uncompleted, unprecedented and unpredictable series of events.

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


Decision takers or manipulators behind the scene, either they are forerunners of
demonstrations and their ideologues or state and non-state actors and secret services,
can hardly be sure of the outcomes of their actions. The panorama of the events and
their outcomes are not orderly and predictable. This, however, is an observable and
understandable series of events only if one admits that it is at a level of controlled
chaos and intermingled complexity. The complex nature at the very beginning is
seen and easily observed: the butterfly effect created by a 26 year-old Tunisian
man, Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate, who was selling vegetables for
earning his life, set him on fire in the middle of a crowd because local police seized
his cart. The reason of the seizure was that he had no permit to sell vegetables. His
reaction to this confiscation is understood today is the trigger of whatever happened
through the timeline of Arab Spring demonstrations. Tunisian people protested
against the government, crying off their anger so long they kept inside. This scene
is at the first glance as depicted above.
Nonetheless, there is a part to be analyzed a little deeper, and by refraining
from making superficial first-impression analysis. Tunisia, for a long time through
its history, is known as an undemocratic country, whose predominantly Muslim
population was under severe pressure by the government, however much pressure
can be observed at every aspect of social and religious life; such times were sadly
realized, people neither could practice their sacred duties and nor could use religious
wearing such as headscarf publicly, and public communities and meetings were
intensely followed by the angry eye of the state. Economic and social life was not at
a desired level of wealth and stability in Tunisia. Therefore, the daily life has long
witnessed such incidents like confiscations of carts and beating, violence, unemployment, random arrests, cruel activities of police officers, torture etc., and were
commonplace in Tunisia. As Bouazizis self-immolation happened as a result of one
of these usual everyday happenings, the reason behind the scene should be examined
thoroughly. Bouazizis quite noteworthy protest appeared on the news both local
and international, for sure. The self immolation protest happened on 17 December
2010 and Tunisian government has been overthrown on 16 January 2011, Tunisian
president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia by way of Malta. Everything
happened in a months time. Sure it is a quite short time for a regime change.
If the scene is understood as appeared on the news bulletins, a man burning
himself can cause a regime change. In a thorough analysis, one can find out that the
plot is set for this quick and easy path to overthrow a government which had been
untouchable for decades. One explanation is the background preparation of public
opinion towards such a change: in Assanges Wikileaks documents, Tunisia in the
eyes of the U.S. was full of negative indications. These were leaked accidentally as
the official story told us. Apart from the accidental nature of the documents, they
indicated that either the U.S. support or distant stance meant much for international
and domestic public opinions. Tunisian youth and any person who had access to
news, social media and internet services became sure of that their government
lacked enough international, and more importantly the U.S., support for applying
such a pressure on the society. The invulnerability of Tunisian dictatorship collapsed
in the social psychological level.



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

Not only Tunisia but also Egypt, Libya and other Arab Spring countries has their
own timeline and story. Maybe today, we can say that Egypt and Syria become the
unique. Egypt experienced coup detat in 2013 summer and Syria has still suffered
from civil war for almost 2 years. Unfortunately, these two countries and other
countries did not give any hope for democratic transition or democratic country
in the future.
Classical theories of international relations seems not enough to describe what
happened and what will be happened in those countries. Also, nature and evolution
of uprisings revolution? did not same with old experience of countries. World
never experienced such a complicated, chaotic and interdependent protests. Also,
no one really can predict or guide future of those countries. Thats why, in this
paper we would analyze Arab Spring with chaos theory in four main assumptions
of chaos theory (1) international system as a Chaotic system (2) butterfly effect in
Arab Spring (3) Interdependence in Arab Spring (4) Edge of the chaos generate
better and new system or not.

3.4.1 International System as a Chaotic

In order to understand, effectiveness of Arab Spring and its nature, we should start
our analysis with assumption of international system as a non linear system. As
we mentioned in the part of discussion on order, anarchy and disorder within the
field of international relations today can not explain naturally complex and chaotic
relationship network of international system.
Regarding Arab Spring, in order to understand its depth and long term consequences can be understood within chaotic international system. According Kissane,
there are three elements of chaotic international system. He suggests that system
is chaotic which is completely different from any interdependent system. Secondly,
Kissane claims that every actor seek security in chaotic international system. He
made distinction between realists assumption of seeking survival. A state seeking
security may well trade off sovereignty to another state or institution if it believes
it to be in the best interests of the state sovereignty (Kissane 93). So, Kissane say
that each actor may define its security and, in parallel, make it more complicated
and unpredictable. Third assumption of Kissane is actors who while seeking security
also interact with each other. Security cannot be pursued independently : : : security
can only be sought and attained by interacting with other units in the system.
These interactions drive the security balance and also the chaotic nature of the
wider system [7]. He exemplified EU membership progress, since countries are
bestowing their sovereignty, though partially, and it is not easy to explain with
conventional ways.
Chaotic international system would much more focus on depth of interdependency, velocity of networks with the seeking of security. Actors in the system
become more varied, independent and interdependent through the years. We should

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


consider Arab Spring in the light of map of chaotic international system which
generally described Dylan Kissane. It will be helpful to understand uniqueness of
Arab Spring for region and world. So, the first step of analyzing is Arab Spring
occurred still continue in the chaotic international system which suggests actors are
more interdependent and interact each other, while seeking security.

3.4.2 Butterfly Effect in Arab Spring

Maybe the most popular phenomenon of Arab Spring has been butterfly effect.
From scholars to journals everyone described the situation with the word of butterfly
effect because as we mentioned in the beginning protests started in Tunisia and
split into whole Egypt, Libya, Syria and other countries. In first sight, we can talk
about butterfly effect started with Tunisian guy and it resulted in leader change in
countries. However we can talk about much deeper butterfly effect in Arab Spring.
First question is why a young Tunisian set himself on fire and what are the
reasons behind the mass protests across the region. We can find many answers
to those questions, if we want to summarize the general reasons, we will reach
the first chains of butterfly effect. We would like to remind that each country has
unique historical and political background however Arab people have common bad
memories and hopeful future dreams.
Political sphere in the Arab countries before Arab Spring was completely
undemocratic. Gelvin in his book Arab Uprising: What everybody needs to know
put the most common questions of public about Arab Spring. According to Regional
Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme prepared the
report which manifested characteristics of political system in the region.
When it come to civil liberties, political rights and independence of media, only Jordan
ranked above the international mean [2]
When it came to public perceptions of corruption (graft, bribery, cronyism), ten out of the
seventeen Arab states surveyed ranked above the international mean [2]
Seventeen of the nineteen Arab States surveyed required newspapers to be licensed, there
was pre-censorship in eleven states. [2]
In its 2008 report, the Arab Organization for Human Rights cited seven states- Iraq,
Syria, Egypti Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait-and the governing authorities in the
West Bank and Gaza for regularly torturing interned prisoners; the United Nations High
Commission for Human Rights also threw in Algeria, Bahrein, Morocco and Tunisia, for
good measure [2]

As report mentioned, political sphere in Arab region became one of the main reason
behind uprisings. Most of the Arab countries have lived under the situation of
state of emergency which makes much more strong government authorities. So,
suffering from political authorities become first and one of the main reasons behind



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

Second reason is the economic conditions in the Arab region. We can say that
oil exporters countries have better conditions. There have been different economic
patterns in the region. It is hard to generalize economic conditions, for example,
Algeria is rich in oil and gas but the first protesters shouted We want sugars! [2].
Furthermore, IMFs report on economies in the Middle East and North Africa draw
pessimistic frame, some of points were given in the below;
Over the course of the previous three decades, the growth of GDP in the region averaged only 3 percent, while the GDP in the rest of developing world grew at 0f 45
percent : : : (2012)
The number of jobs grew 2 percent annually between 2000 and 2007. Overall, unemployment in countries for which data are available- Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia
hovered between 10 and 12 percent. (2012)

Not only political atmosphere in the region but also economic situation show how
Arab people have lived poor conditions. Unemployment rate has been increasing
while growth rate of GDP per capita are decreasing. Also, it should be remembered
that Tunisia was the worst countries which affected from 2008 economic crisis.
Third reason is directly related with other two reasons which is food crisis. As
we mentioned in the economic conditions, food crisis became so obvious and even
it reached to level of scarcity. Gelvin pointed out that Japanese investment bank
Nomura prepared list of 25 countries that would be crushed in a food crisis, of
course the Arab world dominated the list. Tunisia was in the number 18, Libya at
16, Sudan at eight, Egypt at six, Lebanon at five, Algeria at three and Morocco at two
[2]. We can say that unexpected climate change drought in Syria and unbalanced
and wrong economic policies in the country. In 2007, for example, when prices
began to climb, bread riots spread throughout the region, from Morocco and Algeria
to Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria [2].
Authoritarian political atmosphere, poverty, unemployment, poor life standards,
non humanitarian treatment towards people characterized protesters life in the Arab
region. We can say that, in some countries such as Libya and Egypt this type of
life unfortunately continued even 50 years and more. So, reasons behind uprisings
did go back at least 50 years ago. We can say that long term negative aggregation
of Arab people resulted in massive and unexpected (still questionable for whom?)
protests and then regime change.
Regarding butterfly effect and chaos theory, compare to other analysis for Arab
Spring we pointed out deep reasons which were long term unemployment, poverty
and food crisis were the initial points of the protest. Now we can say that Arab
Spring cannot be demoted to Bouzazis burned himself. He was just a symbol
of initial conditions and will be sparkle for Arab peoples how they image their
future. Most importantly, how and why Arab peoples demands changed from their
initial conditions until today. In other words, Arab people started protests because
of poverty and food crisis but their demands shifted towards political demands of
democracy and human rights. Third part of our analyzing will show off how their
demands shifted to political ones with the interdependence in chaos theory.

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


3.4.3 Interdependency in Arab Spring New Journalists

of Twenty-First Century
Third related issue with chaos theory is interdependence in Arab Spring. As we
mentioned in the butterfly effect part, interdependence and butterfly effect are interrelated each other. Interdependence has been discussing by many scholars, we would
not get into deep. However the term of complex interdependence can be considered
as a new in IR, it is brought by Joseph Nye and Keohane. Simply, it means that
the various and complex transnational connections and interdependencies between
states and societies were increasing at the same time, balance of power by use of
force is decreasing. We can say that Furthermore, complex interdependence of Arab
Spring consisted of various actors. Interdependence is natural part of chaos because
any individual action can affect and change the system as whole but at the same time,
it make impossible to analyze. Thats why we limit our analyze with role of social
media and individuals to show interdependency realized with youth population and
social media.
Firstly, it is better to start with youth population and their role in Arab Spring.
Despite the old-type of regime supporters, Tahrir Square and Arab countries
experienced a unique revolution attempt by young Arabs who mainly suffered from
long term low wages, unemployment and poverty which we discussed in butterfly
effect part. Stephanie Schwartz work on critical role of youth in Arab Spring.
For years scholars have been warning about the youth bulge that the disproportionately
large population of young men in the Arab world is a ticking time bomb. This logic
focused on young peoples violent potential: young men with little access to jobs and whose
grievances arent addressed by good governance are more likely to join rebel movements.
In part we are seeing this come to fruition, but not in the ways originally predicted. [11]

Role of youth population has kind of main position of interdependency analysis

because youth population means that high number of using social media and show
more mobilization. Schwartz [11] also emphasize that youth put a new elements
to protests like Social media, hip hop, the arts and comedy have all played a
role in anti-regime advocacy. She believes that this was an important lesson for
traditional political and diplomatic institutions across the world, which in the past
might have : : : sustainable change. So we can say that young population showed off
high mobilization and use of social media during protests which triggered massive
ones even revolution in not only one country it becomes whole region.
Secondly, social media is another source of intuition for the desires of independent minds that became more eager for Arab Spring. Maybe for the first time, people
realize that how social media and its network were so effective in political events.
Arab Spring may be metaphorically regarded as a Vietnam of social media with
those who participated into it and who did not; this should be remembered when
people can still recall the CNN effect got into our life immediately after the first
Gulf War. There is no doubt that the news agencies such as the Al-Jazeera network
had significant role in monitoring events in the Arab Spring. However, this time
news, videos and most importantly groups organized through social media. Two



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

elements of interdependence is highly relevant to each other, because of mainly

young groups who make good use of social media in their daily life quite often,
manipulated events in the countries.
Social media is broad and limitless but can be represented mainly by Facebook,
Twitter and Youtube. They give chance to their users to post unmonitored and
immediate information, photo and videos; also it is more available and fast for
people to reach these postings. According to study from Washington University
which was about use of social media in Arab Spring with the words of Philip
Howard who is the leader and associate professor in Washington University
Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about
freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise
expectations for the success of political uprising [4]. Also, they used numbers
of tweets how change during high-tension times. For example, during the week
before Egyptian president Hosni Mubaraks resignation, the total rate of tweets from
Egypt and around the world about political change in that country increased from
2,300 a day to 230,000 a day. Videos featuring protest and political commentary
went viral the top 23 videos received nearly 5.5 million views [4].
The significantly important function of social media through the Arab Spring is
not just a simple role to inform the world what was going on then in their countries,
but also and more crucially, people became organized in groupings through social
media. Project on Information Technology & Political Islam point out this situation
They found solidarity through social media, and then used their mobile phones to
call their social networks into the street. In a surprise to both government analysts
and outsiders, a large network of relatively liberal, middle class, peaceful citizens
quickly mobilize against Mubarak(2011). Even Mubarak attempted to shut down
telecommunication system and received immediate criticism from public.
For example, regarding this organizing dimension of use of social media; Wolfsfeld and others explain the role of social media in Arab Spring with two different
theoretical considerations. This dynamic is likely to be especially prevalent in nondemocratic states, where citizens have less faith to their domestic media [13].
There are two different approaches to role of social media during protests. First
one claims that political environment would change paralleling to increase number
of social media, on the other hand cyber-skeptics claim that protests already reached
peak point. They supported their claims with the following argument: only 20 % of
Egyptian has proper internet access. [2]. In other words, they try to understand how
social media affect and political environment change in a cycle.
Regarding chaos theory, two variables which are youth and social media can
be considered as a backbone of interdependency. Young population too often
uses social media tools to inform all over the world and organize their protests.
Furthermore, use of social network went beyond the expectation and reach almost
all over the world. Even we can say that the first days of protests followed from
Twitter and Youtube. In other words, use of social media and its deep network
triggered massive protests and global effect. Furthermore, social media also create
its interdependence network, millions of insider and outsider users brought Arab
Spring events to their network. This interdependency and its chain effect is found

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


in chaos itself. It repeated itself millions time and affect systems, in our case using
of social media by youth protestors create its own new network and it is a repeated
procedure for too many times by too many users. So, it led to a high interdependency
between actors even it push states as a main actor to take action.

3.4.4 Edge of Chaos The New Systems

The main concern about the protests was when it would be ended? However, ending
protests seemed not to ended in soon even protesters spread to other countries. One
year later, February 2011, Mubarak was thrown out and in September 2011 Kaddafi
the Libyan dictator was lynched in the streets. World was shocked because small
spark turned to mass protests and then obviously uprising and in the finally resulted
in not government even system change in these countries. So, finally dimension of
this paper would consider Arab Spring countries on the edge of chaos which means
would Arab Spring led into new system or not.
The term of edge of chaos derived from coined by mathematician Doyne
Farmer to describe the transition phenomenon discovered by computer scientist
Christopher Langton. In general terms, edge of the chaos directly related with
self-organized criticality (where systems spontaneously reorganize themselves to
operate at a critical point between order and randomness), can emerge from complex
interactions in many different physical systems, including avalanches, forest fires,
earthquakes, and heartbeat rhythms. In detailed, Chris Langton discovered a regime
at particular threshold value, where there is a transition between where the state of
the automata eventually repeats itself and state where there is completely random
generated states that never repeat. Coined by Doyne Farmer as the edge of chaos
this regime is between the chaotic regime and the order regime. Jim Crutchfield has
mathematically analyzed this transition and determined that there is a peak at the
edge of chaos where there is a maximum of information.
Can we say Arab Spring can be considered as an edge of chaos in itself? In other
words, can the Arab Spring be the starting point for a new system in the countries
of the Arab world? This analysis should be carried out for each country separately,
because so far it has been 3 years since the protests started. Unfortunately, it is not
easy to generalize political and economic atmosphere of Arab countries. Thats why
it is more practical to focus on the most controversial ones: Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

3.5 Egypt Would Revolution Ended in Coup detat?

Egypt can be realized as a biggest and effective country in the Arab region in terms
of politically and economically. Even some of people believe that Cairo has been
the hearth of Muslim world. We would not go to detailed political history of Egypt
however as everybody know 30 years Mubaraks period, Egypt experienced partially



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

liberal economic policies while there has been limited political reforms even it was
getting authoritarian day by day. Since 1967 except assassination of Anwar Sadat,
Egypt lived under Emergency Law Rule which led to seize of police and army
power and censorship on press become legalized, there was no word for human
rights. Also, during his 30 years of rule, opposition groups members such as Muslim
Brotherhood have been pressurized and prisoned. Of course in such a regime, riots
and unrest was not new, during his regime many times Egyptians made huge protests
because of economic reasons.
His overthrown just after 18 days later protests began. However it was not end bad
days of Egypt. For chaos theory, the peak point of protests in Egypt was completely
considered as edge of chaos. As same as system in the physics, in the edge of the
chaos system will be ready for new system. Protests turned into revolution towards
more democratic and open society. In other words, Egypt was ready to have better
and new political system. Muslim Brotherhood founded a political party called
freedom and justice party and in 2012 election Mursi who is the leader of Muslim
Brotherhood became president of Egypt. Unfortunately, 3 July 2013 coup detat
ended the term of Mursis presidency the first democratic election of Egypt. It
made Egypt is one of the unique country because as we expected paralleling to edge
of chaos first Egypt have fair and democratic elections as Egyptians expected, then
again coup detat which is completely chaotic situation for Egypt. Today, Egypt has
suffered from mass protests and different than society was divided into two groups
supporters of Mursi and anti ones. In other words, Egypt is more worse situation
during Arab Spring. Thus, Egypt seems again put itself in new edge chaos, we will
see how the new system will be shaped.

3.6 Tunisia A Struggling One

Tunisia was one of the most controversial countries during protests because within
Arab countries Tunisia was relatively rich and prosperous country. As same as
Egypt, Tunisia had relatively neoliberal economic policies with autocratic political
systems. Despite the richness of Tunisian people, major group of Tunisian people
has suffered from poverty which expected as a result of neoliberal economic
policies. Like Mubarak, protests ended Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
regime and he and his family flew to Saudi Arabia but it was not end like other Arab
Spring countries, it was just beginning for them. After his flee, state of emergency
was declared protests continued for a long time against RDC (Constitutional
Democratic Rally) which was Ben Alis party. Because of long term protest, party
was banned. New president announced elections of Constituent Assembly and
Islamist Ennahda Party wining plurality.
Compare to Egypt and especially Syria, Tunisia seems in much more stabile
situation or we can say that protesters got what they want from old regime.

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


Thousands of people gathered to protest against Islamist government, protests rised

political tension since July and even Tunisian parliament activities were freezed
until political groups have consensus. However, it seems protests would turn into
massive points. Later than Egypt, Tunisia is again in the chaotic situation. The events
chain is the same with Egypt, even both elections resulted in favor of Islamists while
anti groups protests rised. So, we can say that Tunisia has also dont have stable and
prosperous political life after Arab Spring, edge of chaos is still valid for Tunisia too.

3.7 Syria Civil War

Syria maybe the most bloodiest country in Arab Spring. In the beginning as Gelvin
said that uprising in the Syria was almost surprisingly for everyone. Actually, after
1 year the first protest in Tunisia and Egypt, Bashar El Asad believed that his country
is different and never happened such revolution. Also, Gelvin pointed out different
reasons why it was surprising. First Bashar Al Asad was known as a reformer
after his dad, even Syrians celebrate his coming. Secondly and more importantly
Syria is composed from different religious group and they give support to religious
minorities. Even Asad family themselves are belonged to Alawite sect while 75 %
of Syrians are Sunni (2012). Protests first started in small cities of Syria and it
was triggered by arrest of schoolchildren because of taking a slogan from Egyptian
Unfortunately, Syrian people never had chance to transform democratic system
and election like Egypt and Tunisia. Characteristics of opposition groups, Asad
regime and role of international actors played role to have civil war in Syria.
Opposition groups in Syria have different elements. Peaceful protesters is one of
them however there are pro-democracy groups, Local Coordination Committees
and of course well know opposition Kurdish and tribal groups. On the other hand,
Syrian government structure is very different than Mubaraks and Tunisian. Both
Father Asad and Bashar Asad appointed their relatives or familiar people from
Alawite sect to crucial positions in military and government. It is not easy to forced
to be resigned Asad. So, after almost 2 years since protests began there is unnamed
civil war in Syria. Day by day, role of international actors become more eminent and
effective. Also, control of different territories of Syria are taken by different groups
and violence continued.
Regarding chaos theory and being edge of the chaos, Syria might be considered
the most suitable case. They are still live in the edge of chaos, still hope to have
better system at the same time possible to have new system with Asad. Time, actors
and Asad regime are the vital player to continue these chaotic times for Syria. It
appears that Syria wont generate a new system in soon. Chaos will be in Syria for
a long time too.



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

3.8 Epilogue: Chaos as a Matter of Fact in the Middle East

Chaos, as explained, does not necessarily mean arbitrariness or disorder, with regard
to international relations. Chronological explanations generally refer to acts of
governments, which are taken by certain decision taking processes, challenging
any disorder in their realms. As many other authoritative bodies, the government
in Syria, for example, has a priority of controlling its surrounding environment,
primarily its bureaucracy, intelligence and particular interest groups. By controlling
the nearby environment, they can simply impose their power upon their realms. This
is simply practical and as expected. Surprising is the fact that Asad developed some
kind of siege mentality [2]. With this mentality, which is quite dangerous though,
Asad deliberately creates a chaotic environment nearby. This fits into our scheme
that leaders sometimes let happening of unrest and disorder, and see them as a
chance to reconstruct their authority and power. As the ultimate example to this, one
can see the latest dispute on chemical weapons and their arbitrary usage on civilian
society of Syria. This act, with no doubt, was a unrestrained act which has already
been titled as a war crime within international laws and regulations. However,
Asads chemical maneuver, which was expected to stir the already difficult situation
further, still very surprisingly though, ended in the cancellation of the plans of
international military intervention led by the U.S. This is also the consequence
of Asads final move, either planned or not, of quitting being reasonable both for
extending power and fear among bureaucracy and nearby people and also for giving
a message to the world that any relentless intervention into his business will turn out
to a turmoil.
How did using internationally banned chemical weapons ended up at the advantage of Asad? It might still be his bare luck, or an evil-but-successful management of
chaos. Stressing the latter, we may say Asad, and as a devote counterpart Putin were
successful in managing the breaking point, indeed by creating a new one himself.
Metaphorically, by creating a big explosion on a river basin one can change the
direction of stream easily. Using a chemical bomb and killing thousands at once was
far from brutal; however, as evaluated as a bifurcation point in the linear worsening
of Syrian problem, that bomb is planned to be no risk to Asad, who is already going
downwards by all means. The bomb was seen as the bottom line of the bill that
Asad should pay, but it did not end up like that. This is one way or another related
to escalating the chaotic image and using its energy in a way vice versa.
The situation in the Middle East was no better for him to be harsh on civilians
and opposition parties. Iranian support, for example, which has always been quite
understandable through sectarian reasons between the governments of Syria and
Iran, seem like flowing in the same course it did for years. The Shiite collaboration
is, however, only one side of the explanation, and even a superficial side. Hassan
Rouhani as a newly elected president did refrain from appearing too internationally
obliged like his predecessor Ahmadinejad in terms of Shiite cooperation. Besides,
Iran has no real intention to immediately get at odds with the West, namely the U.S,
Britain and Europe. Additionally, Rouhani could not rest on the comfort that Russia

3 Understanding of Arab Spring with Chaos Theory Uprising or Revolution


will always support Asad, and remain as a great bulwark in front of the West when
the willingness of the West to get rid of Asad immediately reached at its climax.
Russia is not willingly dividing the world into two in a Cold War fashion over
the Syrian dispute. Rouhani and those who think like him are desperately right.
Since Putin managed two international political movements amazingly successfully.
One is using the weak hand of Obama administration, which was an overall
unwillingness to deal with Syria in terms of military intervention (that is obvious in
the atmosphere of the Congress which could not give support to Obama that made
the situation uneasy for him to take the responsibility on himself of the military
intervention). Secondly, Putin not only appeared as the savior of Obama in offering a
peaceful non-intervention solution, but also firmly and clearly denounced the use of
chemical weapons and made Asad to come by him on that matter. How the latter did
happened? Simply, Asad was expected to welcome the international law at home and
freed from execution. The U.N seen as the body of international law and regulations
was set free on whatever they might observe in Syria. This shows that Putin was one
who understood the possible advantage of the braking of the parallel and linear flow
right within the correct time, which can be taken into account as a true bifurcation
point in the chaotic universe.
Turkey, from the very beginning of the problem, appeared on the humanitarian
side of the issue. However, supporting both the opposition openly and directly and
the refugees running away from the war in their hometowns, Turkey was a side from
the initial days of the conflict and did not seek for any ultimate political goal in the
environment after Asad. The issue of Turkeys search for a role in the reconstruction
of Syria in the possible post-Asad period is not a crucial matter for its international
strategy. Both prime minister Erdogan and President Gul declared the aim of Turkey
as bringing an end to murder. However, Turkey did not apply to the changes
soon afterwards, which was a chaotic crisis management and a realm of political
movements. The case of Egypt was another failure of Turkish political adaptation
to immediate events. Turkey supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Mursi from
the very beginning. After 1 year of administration, Mursi failed in dealing with the
deeply and strongly established regime and particularly its military branch. A coup
detat finalized the Mursi administration. In Egypt, as a matter of fact, the army
controlled almost everything even the economy through its enterprises. An annual
U.S financial support and the military technology transfer were regular advantages
of the army. Besides, a long lasting Israeli support to the Armed forces of Egypt
is a debated issue. With all the given parameters, as long as Mursis efforts in
establishing democracy in Egypt were peaceful and a part of a long-term political
agenda, it was destined to fail eventually. In comparison to whatever we see from
Asad, instant, sudden and unrestrained political actions seem to be more successful
than waiting for peaceful evolution. Back to Turkeys stance, the policy was doomed
to fail to expect from a very fresh democracy to change the old established regime,
ruled and protected by Mubarak for decades, once and automatically. This did not
work, so did not the support for the West including Turkey for newly established
Egyptian democracy.



Akaln and C.A. Blcek

Chaos theory with specific logical sequences and certain peculiar equations can
explain social and political phenomena as far as modeling them within structuralist
explanations. Therefore, Arab Spring, aftermath, turmoil and ongoing civil wars
can be fit into various schemes quite well. If we take into account the explanations
of chain reactions within already established schemes and put the bifurcation
points wherever necessary, we might not somehow manage to put forward sensible
explanations to actual events. However, as obviously seen in the irresponsible
use of chemical bombs, irrational and unreasonable acts might somehow end up
into advantageous positions for those who merely desired to create more terror.
There is not enough evidence to prove that decision takers like Asad intentionally
used the chemical bomb to change the flow at his advantage. This looked like a
desperate act of an already uncredited leader in the international arena. Surprisingly
enough, the recent situation reveals the fact that Asad indeed released from US
intervention by using that bomb. This rather unusual leap from a desperately
disadvantageous position to an advantageous relief is better to be explained by a
global power transition: an equation which is constituted by two main variables
we all are acquainted with throughout the Cold War period, namely the U.S. and
Russia. Arab spring, therefore, is in a way not a regional phenomenon, indeed,
a systematical scheme for global powers, a quite applicable one to any pattern
related to power transition. For Mursi, what was wrong is expecting an idealistic
betterment of his country, but forgetting the fact that the change initiated in Tahrir
Square resembled disorder and chaos. Change for Egypt, Tunisia and the rest was
not initiated by orderly manner. What is missing at the understanding of the idealist
leaders like Mursi is found in chaos theory and its application into international
politics. Although unintentionally, the events that seem to happen all of a sudden
in a particular time may either lead to desired or undesired situations. For resetting
the political (or economical, social) universe, destructing the motives or parameters
that continue their existence according to physical the law of inertia should be
interrupted for changing the flow of events. Thus happened in Syria. International
political decision takers, as long as they seek for a sustainable peace in every
disputed part of the world, may somehow act as their policies become divergent,
including the options that may appear provoking. Chaos management has a negative
side which appears as an image of problem solution by creating a bigger problem.

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