“In 2021,” wrote Marc Lynch, the American political scientist who gave the Arab Spring its name, “there may be few beliefs more universally shared than that the Arab uprisings failed.” His statement sums up the conventional wisdom of observers in the West. And as someone who was not only present in Egypt during the uprising, but was among the throngs of young people in Cairo’s Tahrir square demanding change, I can hardly say that I look back on those days with anything but disappointment. Nor do the stories of other Arab lands caught up in the wave of revolutions invite more optimism. But simply to see the Arab Spring as having given way to an “Arab Winter” is to miss something crucial about what has happened to the Middle East over the past ten years.
Why the Arab Spring Failed, and the Hopes Its Failure Seeded
Despite many real disappointments, the turmoil of the past decade has also revealed signs of promise in the Middle East.