Thursday, January 10, 2013


Professor Sheri Berman has written an interesting piece on the turmoil in the Arab world and on revolution in general.  Rightly, she asserts that revolutions are seldom a linear leisurely walk towards democracy.  Political development comes with a price tag.  She elaborates about French, Russian, Italian and German precedents which were very painful and destructive before liberal democracy could finally become a reality. She argues that in a historical context, the general pessimism regarding the fate of the Arab Spring is misplaced.

While there is an element of truth in her argument, she nevertheless omits to mention the major differential which separates former convulsions in the Western world from the nightmarish events in the Arab world. While the West purged the political discourse from religious elements, the Arabs reintegrate religion into their grievances. The secular alternative is loosing ground overtly, as in Egypt, or by stealth, as in Turkey.

In the West revolutions took off, boosted by an intellectual input which was more often than not, rational at the outset. The dramas which often followed resulted, unfortunately, from less lofty ideals and were gruesome indeed.  Still, in the end, democracy, freedom of thought, and separation between church and state prevailed.
The Arab agenda is being hijacked by zealots who want to turn the clock back to Sharia and a topiary of edicts which are discriminatory.  I note, by the way, that friend and foe kill one another in the name of the same god.

The Arab countries remain hostages of an anti-enlightenment majority. The endgame remains an anachronism which separates events there from most past or current convulsions in other parts of the world and are often secular. True, it is not proven that the Arabs were better off under "tyranny," but it remains equally doubtful that women, minorities, or a multi-party system will benefit from changes which are in part a step back rather than a step over.

One should not shed tears over an "intelligentsia" which too often colluded with the Ancien Regime.  Sympathies should remain with the few who believed and ended up being cheated. The overall DNA has proven to be immune to therapy.  Contrary to professor Berman, I see more deserts and repression looming larger in the future than  oases.  Competing visions and afterthoughts with regard to the messy Mediterranean geo-political landscape stand in the way of a more streamlined analysis, this one included.  To write about the Arab crescent is like trying to print an idea in the sand. The former always wins over the latter.

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