Did the Arab Spring fail? Three views from Monitor readers

On Aug. 20, the Monitor published a commentary from writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “So much for the Arab Spring,” she begins, and then takes a hard look at the turmoil in Egypt, which is “back to a ‘temporary’ martial law that will probably last for years.”

But, she says: “I am not quite so pessimistic as to expect a complete restoration of the old order. The Arab Spring may appear to have failed, but in many important respects the Arab world has been changed irrevocably.” She foresees that the ongoing “collision between the region’s traditional divisions and these new and disruptive trends will be anything but peaceful,” but that “[a]ll we can say with any certainty is that there can be no return to the old days.”

In light of Ms. Ali’s views and recent events in the Middle East, we asked our readers on Facebook: “Do you think the Arab Spring has failed?” We’ve grouped some of their excerpted responses into three categories: “Doesn’t look good,” “Not yet,” and “What about the US?”

1. Doesn't look good

Amr Nabil/AP
A supporter of Egypt's deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak chants slogans Aug. 22 in front of Torah prison in Cairo, Egypt, where he had been held before his release today. He has since been taken to a military hospital in Cairo.

Cathy Barnes: Yes, I think the Arab spring failed. Egypt just exchanged one ruthless dictator for another.

Ole Tangen Jr.: Would you rather live under tyranny or anarchy?

Tim Squire: The Arab Spring, a dismal failure, created a Muslim Winter! It set Islamists on a course to oppress their moderate neighbors, incite sectarian violence, and persecute Christians. For its new-technology organizing, it could not even poorly govern. Anyone supposing it "hasn't failed" is wearing rose-colored glasses, or blinders.

 John Kilcommons: The Muslim Brotherhood, long the world’s most politically astute, patient, and disciplined Islamist movement, overplayed its hand so badly in Egypt… At the end of the day, instituting sharia was more important to [former President Mohamed] Morsi and his fellow Brothers than feeding the Egyptian people or making even the slightest attempt at jumpstarting the Egyptian economy …. This is who the Brothers are, after all: committed ideological fanatics. What is surprising is that they made it so obvious, so soon. 

…. What do Egyptians want? In February 2011, as [former President Hosni] Mubarak was being overthrown, we were told by a giddy mainstream media and the Obama administration that Egyptians were sick of tyranny and hungry for democracy and freedom. Then, when given the chance, the Egyptian people turned around and elected an overwhelmingly Islamist parliament and a Muslim Brotherhood president and voted “yes” on a new constitution that sought to enshrine sharia law.

Then, after just one year of an Islamist project that a majority of Egyptians voted for, three million people flooded Tahrir Square and precipitated a military coup against those same Islamists. What comes next is anyone’s guess. But I have a nasty hunch that it won’t be Jeffersonian democracy.

Nancy Vickery Clark: Same old hate-fueled Gordian knot.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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