2011 was a year of promise. The Arab Spring broke out
from Morocco to Oman, with a push for democracy
throughout the Arab world.
At first I was hopeful that a part of the world that had
lacked it in the past would experience self-determination.
The movement, however, has had mixed results. Each
of the Arab countries involved is different, and each has
had a different outcome.
Egypt, in particlar, has been disillusioning to me. I had
great hopes for a country with such a long history of
Secretary of State John Kerry praised Tunisia as a bright
spot compared with the other countries. It has named a
National Assembly and produced a Constitution.
Egypt and Lybia, on the other hand, have suffered new
upheavals, turmoil and violence since they overcame
their dictators. And Syria has suffered from a civil war
which has brought death and displacement as Syrian
refugees have fled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
According to participants in a PBS NewsHour special
report, the difference lies in the prerequisites for
democracy and the unique history of each state and
Prerequisites for democracy, both economic and
educational, are lacking across the Middle East.
Egypt came out of a military dictatorship, while Tunisia was
the first country to outlaw slavery, 17 years before the
Emancipation Proclamation. Tunisia had a democratic
tradition with a Constitution in 1861.
The NewsHour panel was made up of Hisham Melhen of
Al-Arabiya; Mary-Jane Deeb of the Library of Congress and
Tarek Masoud of Harvard. They pointed out that Syria was
becoming a regional war, encompassing the entire Arab
world--the Near East and North Africa.
"To determine the future," they urged, "look to the past." Egypt
has always been ruled by the Army. Lybia had a single
leader who got his way with bribes.
"It's no longer just a moral issue, they concluded. "It's
strategic." The future of the entire Middle East hinges on
what ultimately comes out of the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring
Images of hope raised by the Arab Spring
(left and above).