Washington hates real democracy: The reality is worse than anything Robert Gates suggests
It’s deeper than Gates’ new book: We’ve no control over events, but — dangerously — keep pretending we do
The third anniversary of the Arab Spring is upon us. Three years ago next week Tunisians toppled the crooked regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. On Jan. 25 Egyptians can mark the first day crowds flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo to force the detested Hosni Mubarak from the presidential palace.
It is hard to reckon the moment. On one hand, the swell of hope that spread across the Middle East in early 2011 remains fresh in the mind. On the other, one looks out at the messes that have come of that season. Egyptians will remember in a couple of weeks, but almost certainly in silence if they are to avoid arrest, torture and all else the Mubarak clone now in power is already known for.
It would be easy to judge the Arab world’s project a failure. I do not. It is the time of breaking eggs before the omelet gets made, to bend Mao’s old formulation.
We witness a failure in the Middle East, however, and we ought not miss it. An American political architecture 60 years in the making is collapsing around the ears of our foreign policy cliques as we speak. Nominally this is the architecture of security and democracy, but it is no time for happy talk. More accurately, this is an architecture of political deprivation in the service of resource extraction, with incessant insecurity a primary byproduct.
It comes to this: If the Arab Spring is to achieve any measure of authentic self-determination in the Middle East and North Africa (and it stands to), six decades of American policy will have to change (no sign so far) or be frustrated (which is what we have before us). It is bitter, but one cannot escape the truth of it.
The best route to understanding invariably begins at the beginning, so let’s.