Arab Spring, Islamist Winter

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Older observers with long memories will recall that Westerners giddy over Arab Spring revolutions also expressed naive hope when today’s overthrown were yesterday’s overthrowers. When Muammar Qaddafi first seized power, for instance, The Nation magazine greeted him as a liberator. Is the possibility of worse replacing bad that difficult to grasp? In France in 1789, in Russia in 1917, and in Iran in 1979, oppressive regimes fell to forces that ultimately proved more oppressive. The history of 2011 won’t be written in 2011, so “Whither the Arab Spring?” is still an open question—just not one as open in the fall as it was in the spring.

The reality of Middle Eastern democracy doesn’t resemble the dreams of its Western cheerleaders. This is as much a reflection of our hubris as it is of their backwardness. Uprooting centuries of Islamic Civilization would be as difficult as instilling centuries of Western Civilization. Change is often glacial; rarely seismic. And the change we want for them isn’t necessarily the change they desire for themselves.

Multicultural delusions, which often turn out to be parochial imaginings of the universality of Western institutions, set up the shock over the Islamist direction of the Arab Spring. So, too, did democratic delusions. Democracy can look like a quaint town meeting in Vermont. It can look like the bloodthirsty mob in Sirte. Westerners wrapped up in the word’s connotations lose track of its meaning. The political freedom of the ballot can be used to vote away religious, economic, and social freedoms. This is what democracy looks like—at least in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

Democracy can give power to the people. It is more important to establish what the people can’t take away from the person. These restraints seem utterly lacking in the emerging regimes. More so than political freedom, the Middle East requires political limits.

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  • StephenD

    "Democracy can give power to the people. It is more important to establish what the people can’t take away from the person."
    The most important statement ever written on these pages.

    This is why we live in a Democratic REPUBLIC. The majority cannot lord it over the few. All must live by the rule of law; a code of law that recognizes those "inalienable rights" f=of the individual. We should make it clear that we will ONLY support those floundering governments that share our values of Personal Liberty, Individual Responsibility under a Constitutional Code of Law with the INDIVIDUAL as its paramount charge. Then and only then can they expect support form us. If we offer support for any other system, we are ultimately supporting an enemy of our way of life. We would be heaping burning coals upon our own heads.

  • Marty

    This is the rule of political succession in the arab world: however bad the previous regime behaved, the successor regime will be even worse. arab political culture makes it impossible to achieve democracy in any meaningful way. An islamist regime may actually be the ultimate insult to human decency and individual freedom. The egyptians and libyans seem to be in the forefront of achieving this horror. The planet will now have to endure more than 23 corrupt and dysfunctional arab regimes that harmed mainly their own people. The muslim brotherhood will soon come to power and create more violence and outrages than most of us can imagine. Our only hope may be the possibility that different islamic governments target one another for being insufficiently brutal.

  • mrbean

    Keep your religious eco-psycho-babble. All organized religion is a blatantly dishonest attempt to arrive at a comprehensive view of the universe and our place in it as a species. The late George Carlin knows:

  • Dispozadaburka

    The conciousness of Islam is doomed.
    It only lives by living off of hosts,
    like cancer.
    Whatever they vote for or think they are voting for is an illusion.
    Secular, Religious Islam, has the same result.
    Let them think that they can include "democracy" in their vocabulary.
    Look at Saudi Arabia, giving women the right to vote.
    Vote for whom?
    Oh yeah, we can all vote for the King……
    But by the by, these votes won't count as much as male votes….
    THe liberated women in Saudi Arabia were given the right to drive in Saudi Arabia..
    but they are beaten by 10 lashes if they are caught driving.,,
    Ahhh, the Arab Spring….what liberation!
    Hail to the King!!!

  • Irandissident

    They KNOW what they're doing .
    Can anyone really believe that the powers who effectively supported the oppositions and without whose involvement, deposing or overthrowing existing dictatorships would have been impossible, did NOT know who is going to replace the old regimes?
    A lot of us knew, just by LOOKING at the live scenes from those countries. When you don't see women in the squares, when you see Friday prayers are the main rallying points, when you hear "Allahu Akbar" all over the news….. you must be really, really stupid to think these are anything but Islamists. No one is really stupid. Everyone learns how to justify and deny, once they get involved in these things for a long time.
    No one can say Obama, Hillary or some other officials in charge of these revolutions are stupid. They know what they are doing.

  • Rick_D

    Violent islam is obvious. Keep it out of your land. "Peaceful" islam entering your land is a Trojan Horse. Beware. Too bad the guards are so complacent and sleepy.

  • BBFmail

    BLACKAGENDAREPORT reports the butchering of Gaddafi.

    The Butchering of Gaddafi Is America’s Crime

    by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

    “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared like ghoulish despots at a Roman Coliseum, reveling in their Libyan gladiators’ butchery.”

    Last week the whole world saw, and every decent soul recoiled, at the true face of NATO’s answer to the Arab Spring. An elderly, helpless prisoner struggled to maintain his dignity in a screaming swirl of savages, one of whom thrusts a knife [4] up his rectum. These are Europe and America’s jihadis in the flesh. In a few minutes of joyously recorded bestiality, the rabid pack undid every carefully packaged image of NATO’s “humanitarian” project in North Africa – a horror and revelation indelibly imprinted on the global consciousness by the brutes’ own cell phones.

    Nearly eight months of incessant bombing by the air forces of nations that account for 70 percent of the world’s weapons spending, all culminating in the gang-bang slaughter of Moammar Gaddafi, his son Mutassim and his military chief of staff, outside Sirte. The NATO-armed bands then displayed the battered corpses for days in Misurata – the city that had earlier made good on its vow to “purge Black skin” through the massacre and dispersal of 30,000 darker residents of nearby Tawurgha – before disposing of the bodies in an unknown location.

  • Amused

    BBFmail it may be "indelibly imprinted "on YOUR consciousness , but how about that picture of the remnants of that Pan Am liner in Lockerbie ? Gaddafy went the way of many tyrants , who have presided over [and ordered ] totrture , murder and terrorism . Save your misplaced sympathies . They are disingenuine at best . And please provide FACTS AS PROOF , for your baseless claim that 30,000 were despatched at Tawargha . You could start by a general location of the mass graves , which are hardly concealable ,given satellite capability ,and the recently available unrestricted acces to the press .