The Arab Spring - what no
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The Arab Spring - what now?
Asked if the French revolution had been a success, Zhou Enlai (or apocryphally Ho Chi Minh) famously replied that it was too soon to say. So why the rush to evaluate the Arab Spring? What would success actually look like? And what do the changes mean for those who deal with the region, such as NATO? This edition of NATO Review aims to look at what happened in the Arab Spring, what worked, what didn't and why.
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Sometimes words don't capture history in quite the way a picture can. Here, we present some of the most striking photos drawn from the Arab Spring uprisings - looking at their people, their struggles and ultimately their successes.
Two minutes outlining the fall of a regime that had stood for 42 years - a fall which took Libyan people from protest to conquest.
Barak Barfi has travelled through the Arab Spring region. Here he tells how he saw different interpretations of what freedom means, frustrations simply changing targets, and new problems replacing old ones. The regimes may have gone. But, he argues, the societies, structures and problems they created over decades haven't.
It was two years that in a small roundabout in Egypt, called ‘Liberation Square’, a few hundred people gathered to protest against the government of Hosni Mubarak. Dr H.A. Hellyer analyses how 18 days later, that square would be etched into modern world history by its original Arabic name: Tahrir.
What does the Arab Spring mean for NATO? Jean Loup Samaan looks at whether the Alliance needs to change its approach to Arab countries post-Arab Spring, how these changes could look and how to overcome obstacles.
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Was security at the heart of the Arab Spring? The accepted wisdom is that millions pressed for greater freedom across the Arab region. And to attain that, protestors gave time, effort and often blood to secure the overthrow of corrupt dictatorships.

But from the very beginning, it was clear that one of the old regimes’ greatest cards to play was that order – any order – would be sacrificed. Hosni Mubarak played this card particularly clearly when he ordered the police off the streets during a particularly delicate stretch of the Egyptian uprisings last year. Suddenly, people who had been yearning for freedom were worried about the security of themselves and their families.

Was security at the heart of the Arab Spring? The accepted wisdom is that millions pressed for greater freedom across the Arab region. And to attain that, protestors gave time, effort and often blood to secure the overthrow of corrupt dictatorships.

But from the very beginning, it was clear that one of the old regimes’ greatest cards to play was that order – any order – would be sacrificed. Hosni Mubarak played this card particularly clearly when he ordered the police off the streets during a particularly delicate stretch of the Egyptian uprisings last year. Suddenly, people who had been yearning for freedom were worried about the security of themselves and their families.

In Egypt, many people responded by manning security positions in their own neighbourhoods. But in other countries like Libya, this security gap was often filled by militias. And in some countries and regions, this stage has not yet finished. Over a year after the downfall of some of the most corrupt regimes in the region, we are left wondering how to move to this next stage.

These reflections come against a worrying backdrop.

In Libya, militants – some allegedly with links to extremist Islamic groups – were behind the killing of the US ambassador and three other staff in Benghazi, just over three months ago. In Egypt, protestors were again in Tahrir Square and even outside the Presidential palace as they demanded that Mohammed Morsi reverse the decree giving him almost unchallenged powers. And Transparency International has just released its corruption index for 2012. It doesn’t make for good reading.

Disappointingly, many Arab Spring countries have fallen even further in the corruption rankings. Egypt and Tunisia have experienced drops and Syria has plummeted. Perhaps we need to focus on the small crumbs of good news, like Libya showing a small improvement. But over a year after the uprisings, few would have expected to be feasting on just crumbs of good news.

In this edition of NATO Review, we look at whether expectations of the Arab Spring were (and remain) overinflated. We also look at how this could impact on security in general and NATO in particular. And where the main challenges remain for those who want to keep the Spring fresh.

Paul King

quotes
Charlotte Isaksson,
Senior Gender Advisor, Swedish Armed Forces, Sweden
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