Freedom may be messy, but it beats despotism
The Arab Spring toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Yemen and Syria may be next. Though trials remain, we are witnessing an extraordinary fight for freedom. What emerges may not be the kind of democracy Westerners want, but it beats tyranny.
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Egyptians, post-President Hosni Mubarak, are wrestling with the reluctance of the military to surrender the levers of power and commerce.Skip to next paragraph
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Libya’s people will benefit now from the nation’s substantial oil revenue that Muammar Qaddafi and his family hoarded. But a land of more than 100 diverse tribes must have free elections, devise a coherent system of government, and build an infrastructure for a people who for more than 40 years have been ruled by a tyrant’s whim.
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: Women's voting rights in Saudi Arabia: a blow to medieval brands of Islam
The great hope in the Middle East is the way women are participating in political change, bravely on the barricades, demanding a voice in formulating new governments, and claiming the respect that has long eluded them. Are other dictators around the world heeding the fate of these toppled Arab tyrants?
Iran is of the Middle East but not an Arab country. Its dictatorial Islamic leaders appear to have learned nothing from the lessons of the Arab Spring.
In Africa, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe runs a brutal dictatorship that has killed and imprisoned opponents who protest his rule – which also makes a sham of his “power sharing” deal with the opposition. Other African nations have been timid in challenging him.
IN PICTURES: Qaddafi's last stand
Despite lingering tyrants, we are witnessing an extraordinary upheaval in favor of freedom in a critical part of the world. Trials remain. It may not be the kind of democracy that Westerners enjoy or would like to see emerge. But as that wise man Winston Churchill proclaimed: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all those others that have been tried.”
Freedom may be messy, but it beats despotism.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, writes a biweekly column.