The Best Ever League Ever

Nabil Shawkat , Thursday 24 Feb 2011

Time for a new Arab League, dictators need not apply, writes Nabil Shawkat

Amr Moussa has decided to leave the Arab League in hopes of becoming Egypt’s first freely-elected president. According to at least one poll, he may win and I’m sure would make a fine president. But I have a better job for him.

The Arab League is beyond dead, however hard we pretend it’s still alive or relevant. It hasn’t done anything memorable since 1973, when its oil embargo warmed Arab hearts in the middle of a war, while forcing the rest of the world to wear sweaters at home. Some good, such as basic research in alternative energy, has come out of that.

Meanwhile, the League failed to address Palestine, watched passively as Iraq went up in flames, sat by as Sudan lost its southern half in a high-stakes game of Russian roulette played by a man no one would let near their children. Today, Libya is not the only problem. Yemen is too awful to watch, Bahrain is divided, and that much-called upon saviour, Saudi Arabia, is too medieval to be taken seriously.

So here is my proposal.

The current League has placed Gaddafi in the doghouse, for now. This was a courageous, and timely, move, but in the new League I am suggesting, it would be standard practice. In the League I wish to tell you about, people like Gaddafi wouldn’t be allowed in, much less tolerated for two generations.

The League we’ve had so far is hardly worth having. But there’s one that would be worth having, a League for Arabs and all their neighbours, none excluded, except those who fail to pay the entry fee, which will be moral and high.

I will call it the Best Ever League Ever (BELE).

While the old League went for quantity rather than quality, accepting morons and misfits and then suspending them, decades later, for sending planes against their own people (Gaddafi wasn’t the first, not by a long sniper rifle shot!), BELE would accept only good guys, and make ’em swear beforehand that they will neither lie nor steal, stay in power indefinitely, or name their children as successors.

Amr Moussa would make a great secretary general of BELE. His experience is immense. Remember everything you’ve done in the old League, Amr? Now do it backwards! Running BELE would be a far better job than anything you’ve done so far, or hope to do in the future. (Who on earth would want to lead the oldest-dictatorship-minus-a-dictator? The learning curve for running the new Egypt will be even steeper than that for running the new Arab League, trust me!).

Running BELE will also be a well-paid job, for I am hereby donating half of my income from this article to the future secretary general. Better still, no one cares if the BELE secretary general keeps the job for life or just for a while. It’s not an emotional post at all, and perks will be set at the level of current chief of the Arab League, plus the bonus I’m throwing in.

Here is what BELE should do:

It will set standards for membership, very much like the EU but with more stress on morality than money, religion, or race. Human rights, transparency, and accountability (you can add cleanliness too – the 25 January revolutionaries would love it! And while you’re at it, why not add clean air, less traffic, less noise, etc.) would be the basic requisites for membership.

Arab countries and their neighbours will be eligible to join, as long as they swear to play by the rules. But they should have no pesky border issues (Iran will have to sort out its disputes with the UAE first). Countries keeping lovely and energetic minorities down would be disqualified (this would keep Egypt, Turkey, and Bahrain honest). Countries holding land under occupation need not apply (Israel has made much noise about being accepted by its neighbours. Now it’s time to stop fretting about existing peace treaties and to put its money where its mouth is: Peace is a no-brainer). And Saudi Arabia must quit chopping off people’s body parts and allow women to drive.

So Amr, what do you think of this new job?


Nabil Shawkat
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