Walter Laqueur worries that we were always deluding ourselves in thinking that the Arab Spring would lead to democracy in the Middle East:
It should have been clear that the odds against the emergence of a democratic order in the foreseeable future in the Arab world were impossibly heavy: The lack of a democratic tradition, the great and growing influence of Islamism, the weakness of the secular forces and their disunity, overpopulation in a country like Egypt, the inherent poverty that made it so difficult to find work for the cohort of young people—given these and many other circumstances, only a miracle could have led the uprising of early 2011 toward a democratic order of sorts. True, political leaders have to be optimists in their speeches and approach; frequently they have to proceed on the assumption of the “as if.” But this should not turn into self-deception, and decisionmakers must not base their policy on the occurrence of miracles.
No, they shouldn't. But equally, after the miracles of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, decisionmakers should not discount hope. Eric Chaney traces [pdf] the Arab democratic deficit all the way back to the time of Muhammed.
(Photo: A vendor walks past Egyptian riot policemen standing guard outside a court in Cairo on February 22, 2012. By Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images.)