As Syria nears civil war, has the Arab Spring proven a general success across the region?

YES
Brendan O’Neill

The idea that the Arab Spring has become an Arab Winter reveals more about Western prejudices than about reality in the Middle East. Many say the upheaval was more akin to Iran 1979 than France 1789, with Islamists rising. Yet if Islamists are doing well, it is by default a result of the fact that the Arab world doesn’t yet have serious political parties people can support. Communities who loudly refused to be ruled by political authoritarians are highly unlikely to now accept being repressed by Islamists. As we’ve seen in Egypt, protesters are as willing to defy mullahs as they are Mubarak. Great gains have been made in the Arab world: political prisoners freed, parties unbanned, rights for women. Most importantly, Arabs have tasted their own power. Let them now wield it against anyone crazy enough to try to repress them again.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

NO
Michael Stephens

The Arab Spring has been a moderate success. Perhaps of greatest import was the shattering of long-standing myths concerning incapable, lethargic Arabs, unfit for anything other than autocratic rule and domination by dictatorship. Ideas, spread principally via the internet have taken root, and these can never be extinguished. Fighting for karama (dignity) was the driver of the revolutions, but the influence of external powers has determined the course of the Arab Spring. The removal of Western support from Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Mubarak and NATO operations in Libya ensured the fall of those men. But in Syria and Bahrain, where external powers have backed regimes, both Assad and Al Khalifa still govern over deeply fractured populations. The Arab world will never go back to the old order, but it will not be a uniform change. While some countries will obtain freedom, others may become more oppressive.

Michael Stephens is a Qatar-based researcher for the RUSI.