Sunday, December 8, 2013
By DAN PERRY Associated Press
(Continued from page 2)
Police officers celebrate the ouster of their president as they demonstrate in Tunis on Jan. 22, 2011. Almost a quarter-century ago, a young American political scientist achieved global academic celebrity by proclaiming that the collapse of communism had ended the discussion on how to run societies, leaving "Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." In Egypt and around the Middle East, after a summer of violence and upheaval, the discussion, however, is still going strong. And almost three years into the Arab Spring revolts, profound uncertainties remain.
AP file photo
"For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability... We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations."
— President George W. Bush in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2004
In the Arabian peninsula and the Persian Gulf, rulers seem determined to maintain things as they are. Most countries have taken only small steps to take politics beyond the ruling clans.
"If the Gulf leaders needed anything to justify their crackdowns on political dissent, they have a perfect self-justification in the chaos in Egypt and other countries hit by the Arab Spring," said Christopher Davidson, an expert in Gulf affairs at Britain's Durham University.
Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, said that "unlike eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s," which clearly wanted to emulate the West, "the Arab world does not know where it wants to go."
Gerges warned against assuming "that this transition will lead to Western-type democracy."
Perhaps religion will play a formal role in some places. Perhaps monarchs will retain a hand in the executive. Perhaps certain ethnic groups will have positions reserved for them, as is the case in Lebanon, where the president is a Christian and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim.
Francis Fukayama — the political scientist who wrote "The End of History?" in 1989 — said he still believes democracy is the direction of things. But subsequent events have shown that the road is long, and cultural differences may apply.
"Democracy in Asia ... doesn't look like European democracy — there are going to be variants all around the world," the Stanford University fellow said in an interview. "I think people's expectations are too high for how quickly you can make a transition. The experiments we've seen (in the Middle East) have not worked very well, but they're also very real and these institutions just take a long time to evolve. Nationalism derailed democracy in the 20th century in Europe, (and) religion is playing a similar role in the Arab world right now."
"All of these places are going to look different, but they face a common set of challenges and there is a common evolutionary path."
Associated Press writers Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah,West Bank; Sarah El Deeb in Cairo; and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.