In Commentary, Max Boot has written yet another defense of the Arab Spring, now deep in its Islamist Winter. The general theme is that good times are still ahead if we just have faith in the majesty of democracy and the innate goodness of the people who want to kills us.
Let’s look at what’s wrong with that… besides the obvious.
France, after all, transitioned from absolute monarchy by way of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror… and, finally, in 1958 the overthrow of the Fourth Republic and the birth of the Fifth Republic which has lasted to this day.
So all we have to is wait around a mere 160 years and the Arab Spring will yield a bounty of productive and civil democracies. And that’s even assuming that a dubious analogy between France and the Muslim World even holds up. France, along with Europe, was on a cultural pathway to modernization. Even Napoleon and Napoleon III were examples of that. The Muslim world is going backward, seeking the arid Salafist culture of the desert and the sword.
Now if you want a thin strand of hope, there it is. But it’s also besides the point.
The debate between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans was over whether to support revolutionary France. That is the only debate we can have now. Should we support the rise of theocratic Islamist regimes, now.
And finally this question is not limited to the impact of these regimes on its citizens, but on us. For the United States, the French question or the Egyptian question is what level of hostility and violent intent will these regimes have toward us, not merely how they treat their own people.
France and America were not destined for a military and cultural collision. Islam and the free world arguably are.
Germany, for its part, was forcibly created by Bismarck out of numerous smaller states in the decades leading up to 1871 and democracy did not emerge until after World War I—only to be snuffed out starting in 1933 by Adolf Hitler. Out of the post-war rubble emerged a West Germany that was democratic and an East Germany that was not. A unified, democratic Germany was not created until 1990.
Good news everyone, if we wait around a mere 120 years, two world wars and one Holocaust, we’ll be privileged to witness the rise of an Egyptian equivalent of the unified democratic Germany that many of its neighbors accuse of trying to dominate Europe.
As for Italy, it, too, did not emerge as a unified state until relatively late (1870). And it, too, saw its nascent democracy usurped by a fascist (Benito Mussolini), and it did not become a true liberal democracy until after World War II.
The common denominator in all three examples is that France, Italy and Germany achieved this enduring “peace” only because of the outcomes of WW2 and the Cold War. Their stability was largely the product of the death of millions in one world war and the near death of billions in another war that nearly happened, under a system essentially enforced and carved out by the United States.
Is that really a plan for the Middle East?
Unless Max Boot really supports a WW2 and Cold War level of American intervention in the Middle East, complete with CIA assassinations and massive invasions of Egypt, Iran and Tunisia, followed by reconstructions, there’s no serious point in even raising these examples.
Neo-conservative defenders of the Arab Spring keep on referencing Europe, when there really is very little basis for comparison. And they have very little relevant to say about Islamist as the dominant political and cultural factor in the transitions of the Middle East.
Anyone who reads her article, “The Promise of the Arab Spring,” should gain a measure of patience and understanding for what it is currently happening in the Middle East. We cannot expect overnight miracles, but that does not mean that it is possible to cling to the rule of discredited strongmen—any more than Europe today could possibly return to the rule of absolute monarchs.
The Arab Spring has already given us two discredited strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia. 5 years from now there will be even more of them to cling to.
Democracy does not produce social improvement and human rights unless it takes place in a culture which respects those things already.
We should not have patience with the Arab Spring because majority rule does not mean the end of tyranny, it does not mean the end of secret prisons and secret police, and it does mean in the Middle East that the regimes who take power will be far more hostile to us than their predecessors.