By now we have all heard the story of the Tunisian vendor who set himself ablaze and thereby ignited the rush to democracy across the Arab world. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen–we were led by the media to believe that in every country the Arab masses were rising up by the millions to demand freedom. Western leaders (notably Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy) have all jumped on the bandwagon to wax metaphorically about how there’s no stopping Arab democracy now that we live in the Facebook and Twitter generation.
Some of us have expressed real doubts about this movement toward Arab democracy, but even such noted human rights advocates as Natan Sharansky continue to pen columns and articles extolling the demonstrators and assuring us that the Arab democratic movement is real and will produce changes that will affect the world in general and Israel in particular.
But now that ‘summer’ is upon us, it’s time to take a look at how the democratic Arab ‘spring’ is flourishing:
Egypt: There is no democracy–only the ‘promise’ of democratic elections. More than ever, it appears that a simple military coup took place. In the wake of Mubarak’s ouster, the military (led by Mohammed Tantawi pictured above) has continued to rule, suspending the Egyptian constitution and apparently putting in place token reforms. The recent G8 meeting spent much of its time trying to figure out how much money to pump into the Egyptian economy to keep it from completely collapsing.
Tunisia. No one seems to know what is actually happening. There has been a revolving door of governments. Poverty is even more rampant and discord is everywhere. The G8ers also want to prop up the Tunisian economy.
Syria. There is no democracy. Assad has harshly cracked down on anti-Assad demonstrators to the point that he how apparently feels comfortable enough to publicly offer some offenders amnesty (and if you believe that offer, you’ll buy waterfront property in Damascus).
Jordan. There is no democracy. King Abdullah has wooed the Muslim Brotherhood (a group completely disinterested in democracy) into his token Parliament.
Saudi Arabia. Democracy? The Kingdom is more autocratic than ever.
Bahrain. The Shi’ite spring was swatted like a fly.
Yemen. The president resigned, and the country is on the verge of civil war. Al-Qaeda is present and growing.
Libya. Despite NATO’s best efforts, Qaddafi is still around and holding on tenaciously. Even if he decides to depart, do you see democracy around the corner? Who are the rebels that the West is supporting? The same people who have been fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan against U.S. forces?
In short, whatever idealistic Arab spring there was, has given way to the reality of Arab autocracy. Democracy in the Arab world is an illusion.