Paying the price of inflexible policy

The Algerian government's hardline policy in hostage cases has cost a lot of lives, an Arabic editorial notes. Other topics today: what Egyptians want and the nature of revolutions.

Tragic ending to Algeria's hostage-taking shows that government resolve can have a high cost

The final tally of hostages killed by Al Qaeda in Ain Aminas in south-east Algeria, in response to the French military intervention in Mali, has risen to almost 50, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi remarkedin its editorial on Sunday.

Western states first criticised the Algerian government's management of the hostage situation. They indirectly accused the government of deciding too hastily to attack in an effort to free hostages, less than one day after their capture. However, hours later the same western states seemed more understanding of the Algerian attitude.

The incident was nothing short of a massacre. Most victims were foreign hostages that the kidnappers had intended to use as collateral in a prisoner exchange deal.

"It is noteworthy that the kidnappers who came from various parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds didn't aim to take Algerians hostage, in fact they released most of the Algerians.

"The Al Qaeda fighters were aware that the Algerian government wouldn't go into negotiations in this regard and wouldn't acquiesce to any conditions. This has been the Algerian government's modus operandi during 10 years of confrontations with Islamists.

"The attackers' primary targets were foreign nationals, a tactic that guarantees wide media coverage and serves political and financial purposes."

For their part, the Algerian authorities sought to handle the situation with an iron fist and to prove that they are unwavering under pressure. Such is the Algerian doctrine in managing hostage situations.

The French government, unlike most European governments, seemed to approve of the Algerian method. France recently sent five warplanes with 50 commandos to free a French citizen who had been abducted in Somalia.

That operation turned into a fiasco. Two of the kidnappers were killed and the hostage executed.

For this reason, Paris couldn't criticise the Algerian attack on the site in Ain Aminas, even after the high death toll.

"The ending was undoubtedly tragic. Nonetheless, although that bloody operation is over, the hostage-taking may be repeated in the coming weeks, months or years," warned the paper.

"The French intervention in Mali has opened the gates of hell in an already inflamed region making all neighbouring countries prey to unpredictable turmoil."

This is a vicious war across a vast region. Governments may win some battles. They may be able to regain control over some towns and kill some Al Qaeda elements. This is what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But, as in those countries, there is no reason to be certain that France and its allies will finally prevail.

What the Egyptians want from their rulers

The Egyptian people can forgive Mohammed Morsi's administration for its successive disasters - if they sense any gleam of hope for a better tomorrow, Emad Eddine Hussein wrote in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.

The rulers can say what they please about their good intentions, but poor citizens want concrete things; they are not going to eat Sharia, the writer said. Also, Egypt's common people are already religious, and so the Brotherhood and the Salafists can add nothing to their relationship with God.

Citizens want to feel confident that when their offspring move to Cairo to work, they will not be returned home as dead bodies, he added.

The ordinary people of Upper Egypt and the Delta region need to obtain manure, and to sell their crops, at reasonable prices; they need a minimum income to lead a decent life.

Egyptians want jobs that meet their basic needs. They do not seek to travel the world, all they want is "to eat, drink and wear". They need good education, hospitals with minimum facilities and good transportation.

They are not much into the battles of the elites; in fact, many cannot tell secularism, liberalism and Islamism apart, and probably do not want to.

They do not care very much who is the president, Mr Morsi or someone else, whoever fulfils their basic needs they will make into their personal hero.

Why some revolutions are doomed to failure

Revolutions are the locomotives of history and the refuge of the persecuted, Amjad Arar wrote in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

A revolution is a collective action; it is not an individual act sparked by momentary factors. Revolutions are aimed at changing the status quo.

The success of a revolution is not guaranteed, nor is it accomplished by wishful thinking. Many revolutions have failed because the objective conditions for success were absent, the writer observed.

A distinction must be made: a national revolution targets a foreign occupation, using the tools, strategies and balance of power available, while a democratic revolution targets a repressive local authority, using different tools and strategies.

The latter is tricky, for there is a fine line between revolution and civil war, since the authorities are not foreign powers or colonisers.

Fear of civil war explains why many revolutions have failed throughout history, the writer argued.

Among the causes of failure: miscalculation of the existing balance of power, lack of a central command, lack of wide-ranging awareness of the revolution, and most importantly a revolutionary elite's failure to win over the majority of the people.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk