Worrying About An Arab Winter


Daniel Byman starts to:

The most dangerous outcome of the Arab Winter … is the spread of chaos and violence. In Syria, where thousands have already died, the body count may grow exponentially as sectarian killings spread and peaceful protesters take up arms. In Yemen, the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh has not ended the turmoil throughout the country. And Libya, lacking strong institutions and divided by tribal and political factions, may never get its new government off the ground.

Bernard Finel thinks Byman's conclusion – that the US should help shepherd emergent democracies – is misguided:

I think the worst of both worlds would involve the United States ineffectively intervening in regional affairs in order to promote stability, but in the end getting both costly instability and the blame for having failed to prevent it. Our orientation ought to be one of mitigation by distancing ourselves as best we can from problematic developments, and working to find other ways to pursue economic (i.e. energy) and security (i.e. counter-terrorism) goals. 

Paul Pillar cautions against overreacting to Islamist election victory. Jack Goldstone is relatively hopeful about prospects for Egyptian democratic stability. Salman Masalha puts the recent uprisings in the broader historical context of failed Arab nationalism.

(Photo: Yemeni men guard a position in Taiz, south of the capital Sanaa on Derember 5, 2011, after forces loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh shot dead a woman and wounded six other people when they opened fire on a crowd of protesters. By STR/AFP/Getty Images.)