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Year Four: The Arab Spring Proved Everyone Wrong


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year-four-arab-spring-proved-everyone-wrongWorld Affairs Journal:

Michael J. Totten

July/August 2014

 

Shortly after the Arab Spring broke out at the tail end of 2010, two narratives took hold in the West. Optimists hailed a region-wide birth of democracy, as though the Middle East and North Africa were following the path blazed in Eastern Europe during the anti-communist revolutions of 1989. Pessimists fretted that the Arab world was following Iran’s example in 1979 and replacing secular tyrants with even more repressive Islamist regimes.

 

Both narratives turned out to be wrong, and not just because their adherents had the wrong narrative. Any narrative superimposed over this series of events was doomed to be wrong.

 

The Arab Spring isn’t one thing. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing wrenching change, but unlike in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, each affected country is moving in different and sometimes opposing directions. Each has its own history, its own narrative.

 

(Snip)

 

So what are we supposed to make of all this?

 

First, understand that any one-size-fits-all policy prescription for such a diverse region is guaranteed to be wrong somewhere. Libya needs state-building. Egypt needs gradual reform. Morocco needs as much diplomatic support from the US as possible. Syria, at this point, needs a miracle. Tunisia doesn’t need much of anything.

 

(Snip)


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