The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring’s balance sheet
Last year’s events in Egypt and Tunisia drew the curtain on a tottering old order and delivered much of the Arab world into a long-awaited new era. But what that new era will look like remains very much an open question, given the many challenges that the region’s countries still face.
The old order that has begun to vanish extends beyond the former regimes. The region’s entire value system – a political culture forged by autocracy – is being transformed. Arab men and women have shed the sense of humiliation and inferiority that despotism imposed on them – and that fostered desperation, anger, violence, and insularity.
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The old regimes’ opponents have demonstrated bravery without recklessness, and differences of opinion without bigotry.
Indeed, we have seen Islamists, liberals, and leftists standing together in defiance. We have seen Muslims and Copts protect each other in Cairo.
In Yemen, we have seen local tribesmen follow a woman, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakel Karman, in the fight for freedom. And we have seen the Arab media foster a mature debate about democracy, constitutionalism, and the role of Islam in the modern state, rather than dispensing disinformation and crass propaganda.
But the transformation must not stop here. The new and old political forces should initiate a dialogue to create a consensus on the rules of political engagement. As the people become their own masters, those who fail to engage in this process will eventually find themselves without political power.
The region’s emerging democracies urgently need an Arab initiative that resembles the Marshall Plan – a programme to attract large-scale investment in infrastructure, industry, and agriculture (and in the region’s wealth of untapped technical skills), thereby boosting employment. The initiative should also encourage free movement of goods...