Three years later, no one talks about the Arab Spring. Its anniversaries pass in rioting and terror; clubs, bombs and juntas mixing together in a bloody cocktail. Protesters die, police die and the liberals who once claimed that the Age of Aquarius had come to the Land of the Nile have turned their faces away.
In the bleak grey skyscraper towering precariously over Eight Avenue, the filing cabinets bulge with back issues of the New York Times full of optimistic speculations about the future. But now the Old Grey Lady hardly mentions the Arab Spring except when she’s talking about insurgencies and riot casualty counts.
Only a few years ago, she fell head over heels for the bad boys of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, despite the best efforts of her procurers of Islamism like David Kilpatrick and Robert Mackey, she has stopped taking their phone calls and has settled down to placidly chronicling the daily urban disorders of Egypt.
Despite her disregard, the Arab Spring countries are slowly sorting themselves out. Egypt has ratified its constitution and is moving ahead to elections. Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League and Chairman of the Committee of 50 that drafted the Constitution is assuring reporters that General al-Sisi “will assume the seat of power in a democratic way, because he will win the majority of the votes.”
“There is nothing else to say,” he added. When it comes to Middle Eastern elections, there usually isn’t.
Tunisia is stumbling in its efforts at both a constitution and a government, but the Islamic parties in Egypt and Tunisia have been forced to retreat. The Arab Spring has receded and the new battle will be between Islamic terrorist groups, including those that temporarily went ‘straight’ to try the democratic path to power, and the authorities. And that will be better than the ‘democratic’ Caliphate alternative.
The Syrian opposition has been forced to the negotiating table because Assad’s Russian backers proved more determined than Obama and the rag-ends of a NATO alliance unwilling to take on Syria without the United States leading the charge. Its politicians are busy with their petty bickering and the fighters are killing each other over the loot of the cities and towns that they expect to lose before too long.
By the fourth anniversary of the Arab Spring, it is entirely possible that most of the countries affected by it will look a lot like they did before it took place with the exception of Libya where NATO intervention has turned the country over to Islamic militias linked to Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Cairo, anniversary celebrations cheer the fall of Mubarak and welcome the future presidency of General al-Sisi while the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters unleash a new wave of terror. In Tunisia, some Islamists denounce the “secular” constitution while others support it. In Egypt and Tunisia, both the Islamic parties and the left have tried to claim the mantle of a revolution that no longer exists.
What the West mistook for a reform movement, the East misread as a revolutionary movement and the end result has been neither revolution nor reform but a slow crawl back to the status quo of the Shaitan that everyone knew, hated and could count on. In Syria, Egypt and Tunisia, people power no longer stands for change, but for the status quo. The weight of democratic opinion is on the side of stability.
Salafist terror might still sweep across the region as parts of Iraq and Syria transform into a new Afghanistan, but it isn’t likely to happen unless the United States gives the Sunni opposition hope that it will intervene. The Libyan uprising would have imploded without NATO intervention and the Syrian civil war has no future as long as Syria’s allies are prepared to continue upping the ante. The infighting between Sunni groups and the futile negotiations suggest a last ditch effort before the end.
The smugglers, kidnappers and drug dealers will go back to their labs, hidden routes and the caves where their victims end up. The Pakistanis and Chechens will return home, the Iraqis will refocus on the Sunni Triangle and the European Muslims and Muslim converts will return with weapons training that they will put to use in London, Paris and New York.
But the fall of the Arab Spring hits liberal critics of American foreign policy even harder than the Syrian Sunnis. The left was convinced that everything wrong with the Middle East had been caused by American foreign policy. But this time the United States backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt and the Islamist rise in Tunisia. It bombed Libya and threatened to do the same thing to Syria.
The old argument that the region was unstable and that we were hated because of the dictators no longer holds water. The United States pushed out the dictators; their own people brought them back.
The left will try to use Kerry’s belated attempts at working with the new Egyptian government and Obama’s fumbling in Syria as an indictment, but their worst accusation is that the United States did not do enough for the Arab Spring and that is a long way from the old indictments that we were oppressing the Islamists with puppet regimes and stirring up anger against ourselves by supporting the dictators.
History is as malleable for the left as it is for the protesters booing Mubarak and cheering al-Sisi and it will transform the Cairo speech and the Libyan intervention into a complicated plot to seize someone’s oil. Having learned nothing from history, the left will once again champion “moderate” Islamists as the solution to the turmoil. Meanwhile the left will have to go back to using American support for Israel as the default explanation for the terrorism and for absolutely everything that is wrong with the region.
And that is because beyond Israel, it no longer has American foreign policy to kick around anymore.
The Arab Spring killed the left’s foreign policy. Obama has pivoted away from the Arab Spring and the Middle East because he no longer has a road map; except the familiar one of blaming Israel. The left’s bet on the Islamists crashed and burned. The radical foreign policy experts responsible for the invention of the Arab Spring are tiptoeing away while hoping that nobody notices the mess they left behind.
Above Eight Avenue, the Old Grey Lady, once so optimistic about the Middle East, has grown pessimistic again. New York Times editors peer through the windows to the east through the pelting snow where they once saw the Arab Spring from their offices and then turn away while in Cairo the streets burn and clubs hit flesh and a new democratic dictator rises out of the ashes.
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