Thursday, January 14, 2016

The "Arab Spring" turns into a dreary winter

The Economist analyzes the effects of the "Arab Spring" uprisings and concludes that overall, they've been a dismal failure, for a multitude of reasons.

What underlies the rot ... is the failure of generations of Arab elites to create accountable and effective models of governance, and to promote education. After some 60 years of essentially fascistic rule—the forced rallying behind a bemedalled patriarch, pomp and parades and propaganda disguising the reality that the people have no voice—it was perhaps not surprising that the backlash, when it came, was inarticulate and lacked direction. The Arab revolutions produced few leaders, few credible programmes for action, and few ideas. But they did produce much-needed clarity about such things as what political Islam actually means in practice, where the Arabs stand in the world and with each other, and what the weaknesses and strengths of Arab states and societies are.

Before it came to brief and inglorious power in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood attracted believers with the simple but vague slogan “Islam is the solution”. Experience now prompts many more Arabs to ask, which Islam? If it is the arm-twisting, head-lopping version proclaimed by Islamic State (IS), which dismisses all Muslims but its own ardent followers as shirkers and sinners, there are few takers. If it means giving political power to more mainstream religious figures who cannot agree on points of doctrine, this does not look appetising either. Nor do the Muslim Brothers, who revealed themselves to be conservatives bent on capturing rather than reforming the state, hold much more of an appeal.

For decades Arab opinion-makers have ascribed a host of regional ills to Western—and particularly American—meddling, even as its leaders turned habitually to the West for aid or military protection. And the West is hardly innocent; the biggest regional debacle until recent years was America’s spectacularly inept occupation of Iraq. But the morass left by that unforced error, along with the West’s ineffectual response to the Arab spring, have convinced all but a conspiracy-addled fringe that there is not much substance to talk of Western omnipotence, American hegemony or even a Zionist conspiracy. The West’s capacities have been revealed as limited and seldom effectively exercised. It is the region’s own weakness, rather than malign Western intent, that keeps sucking in outside powers.

At the same time many Arabs have also seen, not for the first time but perhaps now more clearly than ever, how weak the links between Arab states actually are, despite decades of slogans proclaiming Arab unity. And they have seen how weak the states themselves are, and more sadly how weak many of their own societies are. Iraqis and Syrians are fond of saying that before the American invasion or the 2011 uprising there were no tensions between Sunnis and Shias. If this is true, though, such solidarity was very easily shattered.

There's much more at the link.

It's worth reading the Economist's analysis in full to get a broad picture of the state of the Arab world today.  It's not just a question of Islam, which is riven by as many denominations and sects and factions as is Christianity.  It's the wider cultural perspective across a huge swath of the earth's surface, in societies that differ widely from each other, held together largely by the religious 'glue' that Islam has become.  Even that's in danger of shattering now, as fundamentalist sects and movements vie with each other for power and influence.  Libya in particular may yet become the first OPEC member state to be ruled by an ISIL affiliate.

There are lessons for the USA here, too . . . namely, don't meddle in the affairs of other countries unless you absolutely have to, because the outcome can't be guaranteed!  I blame a large part of the current chaos in the Arab world on the baleful influence of the neocons and their misguided influence on US foreign policy.



DaveP. said...

"The Economist (which supported Barack Obama for President)..."


I've come to the conclusion that that phrase should be attached to any commentator who thought Obama was a good idea. It's kind of a tell that the person or entity is incapable of rational thought and that any other thing they say should be taken with a box of Morton's. Ann Althouse, who voted for Obama twice because she thought it was the intellectual thing to do, is a prime example.

Anonymous said...

Seems the smart thing would be to stop the incessant US meddling in the area and most importantly don't import people from that part of the world. I don't see how any sane and rational person can look at the countries on that map and say "boy we really need some of that here!".

The world has gone utterly mad. Not just the middle east but Europe and the US as well. China and Russia appear to be at least looking out for their national interest and not trying to commit national suicide like most of Europe and the US. What a world.

Anonymous said...

Honestly I am not convinced on Russia or China. I remember reading that the Russians have always had a fantastic foreign service, and it struck me that I doubt it did the average Russian any good at all.

Retired Mustang said...

Whether for oil or some other reason, once the "Carter doctrine" was promulgated, our increasing involvement in Middle Eastern countries was virtually guaranteed to increase from what it had already been. It's not a condemnation of just the Democrats. Both parties have furthered our intervention into the region. Part of the problem, I believe, is that to a sufficiently flexible or adequately motivated mind, almost anything can be called a matter of national security.