December 24, 2011


Why democracy blossomed: Look to the Arab Spring, which led the way (Steve Chapman, December 22, 2011, Chicago Tribune)

Muslims in the Middle East, which had been markedly resistant to the spread of liberty, were responsible for the year's most momentous human rights development. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia last December when a young produce vendor set himself on fire after being abused by police. His act sparked a mass uprising that on Jan. 14 induced tyrant Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country.

Egyptians took to the streets chanting a slogan borrowed from Tunisia: "The people want the fall of the regime." Soon Mubarak was gone, making way for November elections. But before year's end, crowds returned to Cairo's Tahrir Square demanding that the military relinquish its remaining control.

Not all Arab rulers submitted to demands for change. Libya's Moammar Gadhafi fought for months to suppress an armed revolt assisted by NATO, only to be captured and unceremoniously killed.

Syria's Bashar Assad was more successful in his savagery, slaughtering some 5,000 constituents dissatisfied with his rule. The Arab League surprised him and the rest of the world by imposing sanctions.

Osama bin Laden died as he was simultaneously losing the military war with the United States and the political battle for the favor of Muslims the world over. The Economist magazine noted that "the most striking feature of the Arab Spring remains the complete failure of violently radical Islam."

After decades of almost universal autocracy, Africa has experienced some 30 democratic transfers of power since 1991. In September, Zambian President Rupiah Banda lost at the polls and calmly stepped down. Nigerians re-elected President Goodluck Jonathan in a contest "largely free of the fraud, ballot-stealing and violence that have plagued elections since the country's return to democracy 12 years ago," according to The New York Times.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to restore calm after a civil war, and then won an election boycotted by the opposition but praised by outside monitors. Laurent Gbagbo, whose forces killed thousands after he refused to accept his electoral defeat in Ivory Coast last year, is in The Hague awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

Even the Smart folks have stopped assuring us Stupid ones that Arabs, Asians and Africans are uniquely unsuited to democracy and that History has no End.
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Posted by at December 24, 2011 7:56 AM

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