No matter how desperately advocates of the Arab revolutions strive to justify the deplorable conditions in the states where these uprisings erupted, there is an unmistakable sense of frustration caused by their end results. This sense prevails even among some of the revolutionary zealots, who are eager to see these revolutions being transmitted to other states. Resorting to conspiracy theories to justify the revolutions’ failure is useless, as all four states whose regimes or presidents were toppled are now suffering lack of security and political and economic unrest. It is true that toppling dictatorial regimes can be a ecstatic time, yet this is an ecstasy akin to that of a drunk who will soon sober up and face a bitter reality.
In my assessment, the Syrian revolution and all the complexities involved means that it will be the final stop for the Arab revolutionary train. Syria’s complex sectarian, partisan, and regional struggles, its proximity to Israel, the Al-Nusrah Front’s merger with Al-Qaeda, the regime’s continuing presence despite being on the receiving end of a number of harmful strikes by the rebels, the concern that the regime’s collapse may start a sectarian fire in the region as a whole, the killing of Syrian people and the disgraceful displacement of millions more, not to mention the massive destruction—all are elements that made Syria serve as the railway station where the Arab revolutionary train will stop.
The important question that must be raised here is whether it is bad for the Arab revolutionary train to stop. In my assessment, the answer could be either yes or no, because a revolution is a complex and risky prospect in which success is possible, but so is death or permanent injury. Even success must be preceded by a long period of setbacks, disorder and unrest. Anyway, the price of revolutions is grossly exorbitant. People instinctively lean towards easy and less risky prospects. Furthermore, the Arab street’s view of the revolutions shortly after their eruption is definitely different to their view now, after they have closely watched what is happening in Syria, Egypt and the rest of the revolutionary states.
As for answering “yes,” in some of those Arab states where revolutions have not happened, governments are leaning on this state of “frustration” over the Arab revolutions’ outcomes to curtail their reform processes, fail to fight corruption, and to decline to integrate their people into the decision-making process. This is because such handling of the hot-button issues would be unwise and irrational, especially with the changing circumstances in the region. Such handling would create a fertile environment for the revolutionary spirit to multiply.
Suppose the Arab revolutionary train—the train of autocracy, oppression, and regime-endorsed theft—has stopped in Syria, whether willingly or unwillingly—suppose those features of some Arab regimes have been declared clinically dead, thanks to the Arab uprisings. Suppose, for example, the revolution in Egypt relapsed and lack of security prevailed and the army intervened—the Egyptian people would not accept any return to autocracy, autocratic dissemination of power or seizure of the country’s wealth. If one sought to push the situation backward, this would mean pushing our region towards chaos.
These scenarios are happening right now in the states that witnessed uprisings, but in other Arab states—even if the majority of them are frustrated over the current state of affairs—the people there have a category that carries the revolutionary “germ.” Now it is their governments’ turn to use “reformative vaccines” to kill the germ when it is still latent. However, if these governments ignore or neglect this germ, it may spread and become incurable.