An optimistic start that has failed disastrously
What happening in the Arab countries followed the Arab spring revolutions was really optimistic. But now it looks as though the Arab Spring revolutions may well join the long list of popular uprisings that have failed disastrously to live up to the idealistic, democratic aspirations of the activists that launched them and the optimistic reception their movements engendered around the world.
Political, economic and social change in the Arab world requires a regional strategy which emphasizes a number of basic principles including human rights, political representation, constitutional checks and balances, tolerance, the rule of law and women’s rights.
US support for democracy in the Arab world marks a historic change and represents a unique challenge. If the new policy is implemented in ways that are superficial, half-hearted, underfunded and inconsistent, it will give rise to new allegations of hypocrisy and further damage relations between the United States and Arab populations.
The vision of the Egyptian people who launched their revolution for democracy in Egypt’s squares has been hijacked, this time by military leaders out to save their revolution from Islamists.
US policy in the Arab world has been predicated largely on the notion that a political status quo in the region best served Washington’s interests. With the assistance of Arab partners such as Egypt and the Gulf countries, the United States has achieved a remarkably good record in achieving its objectives—notably protecting the free flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf, ensuring Israel’s security, confronting rogue states, battling terrorism and—during the Cold War—containing Soviet influence in the region. Yet the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, challenged the underlying assumption of the US Middle East policy.
Islamist movements and political parties are likely to play a prominent role in a more democratic Middle East. The United States must remain vigilant in opposing terrorist organizations. That being said, it should not allow Middle Eastern leaders to use National security as an excuse to suppress violent Islamist organizations.
The Arabs have failed to build such a thing as a successful Muslim democracy. Is there any hope that the people of the Arab Middle East will one day enjoy true democracy, equality, respect for human rights, and freedom?
What started as a peaceful uprising against the Syrian dictatorship has turned into a civil war. More than a hundred thousand civilians have been killed, and another two million Syrians have fled the country. The democratic movement has been invaded by radical Islamists, including al Qaeda loyalists. The country is falling apart and could well end up as a failed state, run by warlords and split along sectarian lines. In Libya, Tunis, Bahrain and the other Arab countries, the situation is no better. There are serious problems everywhere, and no sign of democratic progress. But I do believe that the Arab Spring is over.