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Tough Niece

Yes, Morocco is a Regional Model

[Goats on an Argan tree near Taroudannt, Morocco. Image from Wikimedia Commons.] [Goats on an Argan tree near Taroudannt, Morocco. Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

Every month or so, mainstream commentators and analysts make the bold decision to publish an article on Morocco. The obscure nature of Morocco’s experience of the regional uprising has made it a difficult case to grasp for some. Unlike its neighbors, Morocco has slipped through the “Arab Spring” formula of popular protest movement > violence > dictator overthrown. To avoid steering away from binaries and into the sea of nuances, it is important to stick to basic approaches. However, in an effort to save writers, editors, and readers time, I would like to reassure everyone once and for all: YES, Morocco, the country ruled by King Mohammed VI, is the model for the region. I do understand I may have put some out of work with this statement, but I do this with the confidence that efforts in writing, editing, and reading these pieces can be better served in discussing more pressing matters.

Unfortunately, this statement comes too late. Foreign Policy columnist James Traub made an attempt at tackling this heavy-hitting matter…twice in three months. In August, Traub's piece is headlined, “Is Morocco’s King Mohammed VI the savviest ruler in the Arab world?” The sheer scope of the question seemed to pose an issue of framework, as the same author published a lengthier piece a few months later. It too was headlined with a similar question. This time it read, “Morocco’s mysterious young monarch is promising a ‘third path’ between democracy and tyranny. Is it a model for the Arab world – or a myth?” The saga ends, six pages later, with the following line: “There is no third way.” The piece is complemented with a photo essay entitled, “A Tale of the Two Moroccos.” The photo essay bravely highlights the contrasting socioeconomic realities in Moroccan society.

Prior to making that conclusion, however, the author makes a groundbreaking assessment of the roots and causes for the income inequalities.  Unlike the Moroccan journalists, writers, academics, and activists that have, for years, been advocating for reforms, the author cites various examples demonstrating the ties and policies that have entrapped wealth and power within the king and his closest allies. “I had never imagined that the king had any involvement with SNI. This blows my mind. I’m truly grateful that this white man has taken the time to inform the rest of the world on this matter,” a Moroccan journalist told me after reading the piece.  

[Foreign Policy columnist, James Traub, asking tough questions.]

My hope is that in establishing the fact that Morocco is indeed a regional model, it may be possible to begin addressing other exceptional circumstances in Morocco. For example, no one has bothered to discuss that, unlike any other country in the region, Morocco has been the only country to directly respond to the economic grievances of its people by successfully opening Africa’s biggest mall. Or that Morocco is the only country in the region mentioned in the chorus of a popular club song featuring Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez. Not one mention of Morocco recently setting a record for the biggest omelet in Africa either. Nothing even on the advanced and highly evolved Moroccan goats that climb trees to eat argan seeds. These are just some of the factors that seem to be overlooked in the attempt to analyze Morocco within its regional and geopolitical context. Considering these factors, it is quite clear that Morocco is not simply a regional model, but rather, a world model--to be emulated beyond North Africa and the Middle East.

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