How to make sense of what just happened in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria:
Also, “we” did not unleash the Arab Spring, and “we” could not have stopped it. These uprisings began with fearless, authentic quests for dignity by Arab youths, seeking the tools and freedom to realize their full potential in a world where they could see how everyone else was living. But no sooner did they blow the lids off their societies, seeking governments grounded in real citizenship, than they found themselves competing with other aspirations set loose — aspirations to be more Islamist, more sectarian or to restore the status quo ante.
Still, two things surprise me. The first is how incompetent the Muslim Brotherhood has been. In Egypt, the Brotherhood has presided over an economic death spiral and a judiciary caught up in idiocies like investigating the comedian Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, for allegedly insulting President Mohamed Morsi. (See Stewart’s perfect takedown of Morsi.) Every time the Brotherhood had a choice of acting in an inclusive way or seizing more power, it seized more power, depriving it now of the broad base needed to make necessary but painful economic reforms.
The second surprise? How weak the democratic opposition has been. The tragedy of the Arab center-left is a complicated story, notes Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University and the author of “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East.” Many of the more secular, more pro-Western Egyptian political elites who could lead new center-left parties, he said, had been “co-opted by the old regime” for its own semiofficial parties and therefore “were widely discredited in the eyes of the public.” That left youngsters who had never organized a party, or a grab bag of expatriates, former regime officials, Nasserites and liberal Islamists, whose only shared idea was that the old regime must go.