The riots and resumption of martial law in three cities in Egypt had led many to again call the Egyptian revolution a failure. Meanwhile, as Syria’s Assad declines to depart and marshalls his forces for further attacks in Homs, that civil war looks to grind on without end.
While these sad events have captured attention and led to a dismal 2nd anniversary for the Arab Spring, happier events have occurred elsewhere. In Libya, the Islamists remain at bay and the emerging national government is slowly gaining control. In Tunisia, an elected government is holding together. In Jordan, recent elections have gone off much better than expected.
So the verdict on the Arab Revoutions remains mixed — who could have expected anything else from countries that are so different in history, ethnic and religious composition, and political history?
What we can certainly expect is that when the 3rd, 4th, and 5th and later anniversaries roll around, we will still have mixed results.
Can the international community do any more? At this point, only at the margins. The essential features of democratic development is that different factions and groups learn to trust and work with each other. Sadly, this is not something that can be imposed from outside; it must be worked out from within. The wisdom of “Star Wars” — in which the advanced civilizations of the Federation of Planets had a ‘Prime Directive’ to NOT interfere in the politics of other civilizations they encountered — may be good real-world advice today.
The most important advice to those both outside and inside of the Arab revolutions is not to give up, not to surrender to the temptation to just let authoritarians and religious bigots have their way. Rather, keep paying attention, praise progress and denounce violations of human rights and rule of law; offer support and advice when requested, make humanitarian aid available to refugees. Outsiders cannot directly shape the governments or the outcomes of political struggles in the Arab world; but they can and must continue to support the aspirations that launched these revolutions.