The Revolution that Never Came

Shadi Hamid in Qahwa Sada:

The long-awaited “Arab spring” had arrived. Or so it appeared. On January 20, 2005, President George W. Bush declared in his inaugural address that “all who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” Less than two weeks later, the world stood in collective awe, as Iraqis braved terrorist threats to cast their ballots for the first time in their lives. For those who had been waiting decades to see something as simple as a free election, the moment was moving and emotional. Not long after, in March, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed. A nation grieved as it witnessed, yet again, a visionary figure cut down by the scourge of terror. Lebanon erupted in grief and then anger as close to one million Lebanese demanded self-determination on the streets of their war-torn capital. Then, in April, 50,000 Bahrainis – one-eighth of the total population – rallied for constitutional reform.

For a short while, it seemed that the Middle East was witnessing “a democratic moment,” one that would, in due time, render the region’s haunting past (and present) of tyranny a distant memory. However, it was not to be.

More here.