July 13, 2014


The tragedy of the Arabs : A civilisation that used to lead the world is in ruins--and only the locals can rebuild it (The Economist, Jul 5th 2014)

A THOUSAND years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world. Islam and innovation were twins. The various Arab caliphates were dynamic superpowers--beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state. Even as Asia, Latin America and Africa advance, the Middle East is held back by despotism and convulsed by war.

Hopes soared three years ago, when a wave of unrest across the region led to the overthrow of four dictators--in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen--and to a clamour for change elsewhere, notably in Syria. But the Arab spring's fruit has rotted into renewed autocracy and war. Both engender misery and fanaticism that today threaten the wider world.

Why Arab countries have so miserably failed to create democracy, happiness or (aside from the windfall of oil) wealth for their 350m people is one of the great questions of our time. What makes Arab society susceptible to vile regimes and fanatics bent on destroying them (and their perceived allies in the West)? No one suggests that the Arabs as a people lack talent or suffer from some pathological antipathy to democracy. But for the Arabs to wake from their nightmare, and for the world to feel safe, a great deal needs to change.

While our support for artificial states and regimes brutal enough to hold them together was a contributing factor, we all know what needs to be done to fix the region : liberal democracy (self-determination); protestantism; and capitalism.  You can delay the End of History; you can't avoid it altogether.

Posted by at July 13, 2014 8:45 AM

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