Revolutions are not easy. That’s the lesson of the Arab Spring, where the forces of retrenchment have dug in their heels after the uprisings’ promising beginnings.
Who could not despise the tottering Bashar al-Assad dictatorship in Syria? The Syrian strongman has killed some 10,000 protestors over the last year; thousands of Syrians are now refugees.
The term “Arab Spring” was born of optimism, not analysis. When a downtrodden fruit monger in Tunisia self-immolated, setting off a series of regional upheavals, many journalists, diplomats and academics thought they heard an echo of the Prague Spring of 1968. That was when Czechoslovakia boldly initiated democratic reforms – an experiment quickly extinguished by a Soviet invasion.
Americans -- left, right, Democrats and Republicans -- are all sick of thankless nation-building in the Middle East. Yet democratization was not our first choice, but rather a last resort after prior failures.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a firm statement to the Syrian elite this week, urging them to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. "The longer you support the regime's campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor," she advised.
"I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. ... I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies."