Skip to comments.Arab Spring: From Bad to Worse
Posted on 06/01/2011 5:41:15 PM PDT by Ooh-Ah
No one can predict the long-term outcome of the so-called Arab Spring with assurance. Up to now, that uncertainty has protected democratizing optimists, who argue that the Middle Easts internal turmoil, and accompanying set-backs to American interests in the short and medium term, will be balanced out by democratic evolution over time.
In effect, the optimists core scenario which envisions Islamist parties tamed and transformed into peaceful liberal democrats by multi-decade entanglement in the constraints of electoral politicsprotects the democratizing vision from disconfirmation. No matter how bad things look for Western interests today, optimists can say that this is actually part of the plan. Only through the rough and tumble of bickering and necessary compromise over constitutions, elections, and day-to-day legislative politics can a genuinely liberal democracy emerge, we are told. If Islamists or renascent Arab nationalists get elected and rule poorlytaking their countries to war, trampling minority rights, or running their economies into the groundeventually they will suffer at the ballot box, thus bringing a slow but steady trend toward liberalization and peace. This has been the apparently disconfirmable argument-in-the-face-of-adversity of those who look upon the so-called Arab Spring with hope.
It may still be impossible to see the future with certainty, but Joshua Kurlantzicks just-published overview of the emerging world-wide trend away from democracy gives us the best argument yet against optimism about even the long-term outcome of the current turmoil in the Middle East. Not that this is Kurlantzicks purpose. On the contrary, his essay, The Great Democracy Meltdown, has little to say about the Middle East, focusing instead on an emerging trend of democratic reversals in the rest of the world. And for all his pessimism, Kurlantzick is an activist democratizer himself. Yet Kurlantzicks powerful analysis undermines optimism about the so-called Arab Spring in two important ways.
First, Kurlantzick shows that its wrong to assume that democratization deepens with time. That may have been true for the past few decades, as democracy spread throughout the world and measures of deeper liberalization in countries holding regular elections grew. Yet that worldwide process has now reversed. For example, the number of highly defective democracies, countries that hold elections but are in fact close to being failed states, autocracies, or both (think Pakistan), doubled between 2006 and 2010. This trend challenges those who argue that elections can come firstthat instead of postponing votes until a deeper social liberalization has taken hold, elections themselves serve as the motor of liberalizing social transformation. That hurry-up-and-vote strategy is looking a lot less reliable today.
Second, although Kurlantzick does not make the connection himself, the forces he points to as driving the world-wide trend away from democracy can already be seen at work in the Middle East. Classically, for example, democratization is supposed to be driven by economic development and the emerging middle classes it creates. Yet Kurlantzick points out that in many developing countries, the new middle class is vastly outweighed by the very poor. Once these poor get the vote, they elect populist leaders who undermine liberty and raid the wealth of the middle class. That turns the middle class away from democracy and prompts them to support military coups, in hopes of keeping the poor at bay.
We forget it now, but one reason democracy took hold so successfully in England is that the franchise was extended only gradually, as wealth and education spread through the population as a whole. America had a near-universal franchise from the start, yet we also had a great deal more social equality than England early on. East Asia, where economic development has been relatively broad-based, has also been a stronghold of democratization.
Contrast Egypt, where the tiny middle class that sparked the Arab Spring is vastly outnumbered by the extremely poor. Those poor voters, who know little of liberalism, supported the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in the recent constitutional referendum, to the consternation of the middle class. In fact, Egypts middle class revolutionaries are already pressuring the military to delay elections, so as to hold the Muslim Brotherhood at bay. We see here, in nucleus, the pattern now undermining democracy worldwide.
The other key factor in Kurlantzicks analysis is the growing influence of autocratic powers, who are now actively working to counter democracy and to spread their own pattern of decidedly illiberal rule world-wide instead.
We can see that dynamic at work in the Middle East, which is currently caught in a tug-of-war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis, who feel abandoned by the United States, are gathering an alliance of mostly monarchical states to counter revolutionary trends. On the other side, the Iranians are trying to pull the region toward their own Islamist model, forging an alliance across sectarian lines with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example. Either way this breakstoward Saudi autocracy or Iranian Islamism the outlook for authentic liberal democracy is poor.
Even if we cannot know the future with certainty, then, Kurlantzicks analysis shows the long-term scenario for the Middle East sketched out by democratizing optimists lacks credibility. That scenario depends on a series of hidden and highly questionable assumptions about the relative irreversibility of social liberalization once the practice of elections take hold. It turns out, however, that as democracy spreads to unaccustomed territories, those whove warned against moving to elections in advance of deep-lying social liberalization are being shown to have had a point. Will the Arab Spring win out in the end? While the long-term possibility cannot be entirely discounted, democratizing optimism is looking a great deal shakier as a basis for making policy in the present.
Islamic Democracy is a joke, and the joke is on those who believe it will happen.
If Democracy is the answer to the Middle-East’s problems, what’s the answer for Gaza, that elected Hamas as it’s leader?
Al Fatah won at the polls and controls the West Bank. Both are terrorists organizations.
Where has this ‘breath of spring fresh air’ idea come from?
It’s nothing but a pipe dream.
I still say, we’re looking at the birth of a United States of Iran.
When folks finally get their heads around that, it will be too late.
There are going to be things take place that some people here have screamed for for decades. You’re not going to be happy with the results folks. The boogie men you addressed, are a lot less boogie men than what we’ll wind up with.
We’ll see how happy folks are in two, three, and five years.
All you gotta do is put a Communist in the White House and Eureka!
Close. It is Zone 7 of the NWO.
Islam is such a con. Every journalistic view on this matter is rich in emotional banter like respect, dignity, justice, fortune, struggle, at,al.
Those are empty words used to swing western infadels, as their context and meaning within Islam is as likening a shark to vegetarianism.
It will result in another World War.
Maybe not next year or five years or even ten years, but a World War is coming.
I only hope there's enough fight left in Western Civilization to defeat the Islamic tsunami that is building.
Sorry to say it folks, but “Arab Spring” sprung as a Bush era feely-goody sound bite after invading Iraq, promoting an Arab Spring of democratic euphoria as a result of “liberating Iraqis’ from Saddam.
Cross your finger the uprisings spread to Iran
Sounds about right. Are you referencing something I should be aware of, or just kidding?
Did he use that term. I knew he promoted the idea of democracies cropping up. At the time it sounded good, but it doesn’t take long to see how that could turn very bad too.
I hadn’t realized he used that term if he did. Ug.
Arab Spring is actually the ‘Islamic Renewal’ 0bama’s spiritual adviser spoke of in 2010. This term has been used for awhile. There’s even a course on it at Georgetown U.
People need to remember their “Lawrence of Arabia”:
You are an Englishman. Are you not loyal
To England and to other things.
To England and Arabia, both? And is that
possible? I think you are another of
these desert-loving English. Gordon of
Khartoum. No Arab loves the desert. We
love water and green trees. There’s
nothing in the desert. No man needs
nothing. Or is it that you think we are
something you can play with? Because we
are little people; a silly people;
greedy, and barbarous, and cruel. Do you
know, Lieutenant, in the Arab city of
C¢rdoba were two miles of public lighting
in the streets when London was a village?
Yes, you were great.
Nine centuries ago.
Time to be great again, my lord.
Which is why my father made this war upon
the Turks. My father, Mr Lawrence, not
the English. But my father is old and
I...I long for the vanished gardens of
Cordoba. However, before the gardens must
come the fighting. To be great again, it
seems that we need the English, or...
I wonder if the press will hound Obama like they Bush. Obama thought 'it' was happening. And it didn't. Will the MSM say he lied? Don't count on it.
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Arab Spring is a term that was used beginning in March 2005 by numerous media commentators to suggest that a spin-off benefit of the invasion of Iraq would be the flowering of Western-friendly Middle East democracies.
The term took on a new meaning in 2011, as democratic uprisings independently arose and spread across the Arab world.
Having spent some time in Iraqi Kurdistan earlier this year, I will say that at least that part of Iraq is thriving and peaceful. Of course, the Kurdish Peshmerga are diligent in keeping trouble-makers out of their territory and welcoming those who come to do business and live in relative freedom.
The rest of Iraq is still a deadly cesspool of violence and extremism.
Arab Spring will lead to Arab Fall then Arab Winter with serial revolution after revolution. No matter what system of government they have in the Middle East unless they are oil rich they will always be economically depressed. They make nothing in that part of the world. Why? To paraphrase a famous Democrat operative: It’s the culture, stupid.
First of all, let's reflect the real world and call it a muslim spring. Dicusssing the symptoms instead of the disease is a fools errand.
Islam has been in the civilization Ice Age for hundreds of years and is presently heading back into subzero territority, after a slight thaw in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt.
Who invented the silly phrase?
Who has the slightest confidence that culture and social freedom is improving anywhere in the muslim world? Based on what?
Let's learn the history of islam in the 20th century alone, and it becomes clear than any dream of any kind of a spring has been dead for several hundred years. Let's just accept a permanent Ice Age, and just try to contain it.
IMHO This isn’t an “Arab Spring”. This is a bunch of people that have had governments which were repressive and which didn’t represent them in any manner shape or form. The people finally got pi$$ed and took things into their own hands. What will happen in the future is unknown. However one can give odds, and most of the results are bad. Progress invariably means change, but (as we have found out here) change does not mean progress. It many instances the results were worse that the original problems. Think rising food prices and energy costs impacting every facet of a person’s life (when you already don’t have much maneuvering room). I think the West has a tiger by the tail, and we don’t know how to let go. The existing leadership which we have in place doesn’t give one a lot of confidence that the results will be positive.
Don't buy into the official, MSM-promoted narrative.
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