Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Some perspective on the Arab Spring

Juan Cole takes a positive view:
Americans forget that in the 1780s the Articles of Confederation did not work very well, and there were problems of too little federal government. They forget the Rhode Island farmers’ strike, Shays’ Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the various slave revolts, the continued conflicts with Native Americans, etc., etc. Thomas Jefferson, less timid than our contemporary pundits, remarked after Shays’ revolt that ‘a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.’ You have a sense he wouldn’t be that alarmed by contemporary Libya.

They forget that 15 years after the constitution was written, the vice president of the United States killed the first secretary of the treasury in a duel.

So give the Arabs some time to sort out their new situation. Let them craft their new constitutions, hold their further elections, and begin their transition in earnest. It is early days. What had the United States accomplished by 1785?

The slogan at Tahrir Square was “Bread, dignity and social justice.” That sounds a lot like their version of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Liberty and democracy have been a central demand of contentious politics in the contemporary Arab world. Let us wish them well instead of always putting them down. After all, we’ve been at this for over 200 years and we still don’t have it down.

The whole thing is worth reading.

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