John Cassidy writes: More than three years after the Arab Spring began, the political situation in the Middle East is depressing. In Syria, a brutal civil war continues, with the forces of Bashar al-Assad gaining the upper hand. In Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has overseen a drastic crackdown on political opponents, looks likely to be elected as President. A democratic Iraq has descended into sectarianism. In Yemen, the U.S.-backed regime continues to battle militants linked to Al Qaeda. Libya appears to be on the brink of chaos. The Israel-Palestine peace process remains stalled. And the oil-rich Gulf monarchies sail on, stifling internal dissent with a combination of harsh laws and generous welfare policies.
Is it time to give up hope? Not according to Mustapha Nabli, a former governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia, and Bessma Momani, a Jordanian political scientist at the University of Waterloo, who participated in a session that I moderated this past weekend, at a conference in Toronto organized by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Nabli and Momani both acknowledged that the past three years have been disappointing, with high hopes giving way to counterrevolution, intergroup competition, economic problems, and religious polarization. But they also insisted that the long-term outlook was encouraging. Here are some of the reasons they cited: [Continue reading…]