The revolutions and revolts in the Arab world, playing out over just a few months across two continents, have proved so inspirational to so many because they offer a new sense of national identity built on the idea of citizenship.Actually, the specter of divisions and other bothersome matters were there all the time, of course. So there's nothing happening so far which is particularly surprising, and certainly nothing that couldn't have been foreseen at the height of the popular demonstrations. This isn't to say that the revolutions were always doomed to fail, nor that they're now certain to fail. Rather, anyone with a modest sense of history and human nature should never have been carried away in the first place, has little to be surprised about now, and should hope for a positive outcome. In any case, there's precious little any outsiders can do.
But in the past weeks, the specter of divisions — religion in Egypt, fundamentalism in Tunisia, sect in Syria and Bahrain, clan in Libya — has threatened uprisings that once seemed to promise to resolve questions that have vexed the Arab world since the colonialism era.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Dwindling Room for Optimism
Wherever I went in Germany, people assumed I joined them in welcoming the new democracy and freedom in the Arab world. In each case, I had to explain that I hoped for the best, but saw no particular reason to expect it. Now the New York Times has begun to backtrack: