Germany’s former Foreign Minister sounded a sobering note on the Arab Spring in a recent opinion piece posted to the Project Syndicate website.
Joschka Fischer writes: “Given Syria’s bloody civil war, the rise to power of Islamist forces through free elections, the ever-deepening political and economic crises in Egypt and Tunisia, increasing instability in Iraq, uncertainty about the future of Jordan and Lebanon, and the threat of war over Iran’s nuclear program, the bright hope of a new Middle East has vanished.”
Fischer, who served as Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister in Gerhard Shroder’s government from 1998-2005 and currently serves on the board of the Arab Democracy Foundation, while not outright critical of the international community’s initial rush to anoint the revolutions of 2011 a success, more or less pointed to history as a warning that many failed to heed: “All of us tend to make the same mistake repeatedly: we think at the beginning of a revolution that freedom and justice have prevailed over dictatorship and cruelty. But history teaches us that what follows is usually nothing good.”
Fischer mostly expresses his concern with the West’s tunnel vision and its inability to evaluate the uprisings with anything beyond a dichotomous approach of good versus bad. “A revolution not only overthrows a repressive regime; it also destroys the old order, paving the way for a mostly brutal, if not bloody, fight for power,” he writes. “Indeed, exceptions to this pattern are rare: South Africa is one, owing to the genius of one of the century’s most outstanding statesmen, Nelson Mandela. The alternative option can be observed in Zimbabwe.”
Fischer dismisses the correlation between the Arab Spring and a post-communist Eastern Europe, saying it is “not an appropriate reference point” as nearly all of these [former communist] countries had a very clear idea about what they wanted: democracy, freedom, a market economy, and protection from the return of the Russian empire.”
To conclude Fischer doesn’t outright reject the possibility that progress can be made, but the chances are slim, the light dim, and time a hindrance rather than a help. “Of course, even in the face of this misery, we should not lose hope in agreements reached by diplomatic means; but, realistically, the chances are dwindling every day,” he says, adding, “a new and stable order will take a long time to establish.”