If you missed Hussein Agha and Robert Malley’s long piece The Arab Counterrevolution in the New York Review of Books a couple of weeks ago, as I did, go back and take a look. It’s not the least bit dated and is, in fact, one of the better analyses published lately of what is called the Arab Spring.
Middle Eastern liberals, they argue, only affected the direction of Arab history this year for the briefest of periods. The Arab revolution began on December 17, 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi kicked off the revolt against Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by setting himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid. The Arab revolution ended, they say, on February 12, the day after Hosni Mubarak was removed from his palace in Cairo. Men with guns and theology have been in charge of history’s direction since then.
“The outcome of the Arab awakening,” they write, “will not be determined by those who launched it. The popular uprisings were broadly welcomed, but they do not neatly fit the social and political makeup of traditional communities often organized along tribal and kinship ties, where religion has a central part and foreign meddling is the norm. The result will be decided by other, more calculating and hard-nosed forces.”