Why the Arab Spring went wrong – Machiavelli

Perhaps the post-revolutionary period in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ countries is not as disappointing as it appears. Maybe the liberty that inspired thousands to shed their blood is still within reach; perhaps these countries, unused to freedom, will eventually tailor-make a form of freedom acceptable to all and encompassing the unique combination of values (religious, cultural, sectarian and ethnic) on which these ancient lands (artificially divided) are founded.

Or is there, perhaps, some truth in Machiavelli’s proposition from ‘The Prince’ that, ‘when countries are accustomed to live under a prince, and his family is exterminated, they, being on the one hand accustomed to obey and on the other hand not having the old prince, cannot agree on making one from among themselves, and they do not know how to govern themselves’.

Failure to achieve national unity, political inexperience and polarization of extreme views (formerly prohibited) characterize the post-revolutionary landscape in Tunisia and Egypt and, to a much greater extent in Libya where the ‘Prince’ figure (Gaddafi) was even more pervasive in the national psyche.

In Syria, too, the disunity of the various opposition factions  impedes victory and increases the chances of the ‘Prince’ retaining power despite breaking all humanitarian values and expectations. Even when a foreign power intercedes, as Machiavelli points out, it is invariably in order to add the client state to its own empire.






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