2012: From Arab Spring to Early Winter

From Egypt to Syria to Russia, reactionary forces are on the rise.


Meteorologists know seasons are predictable. In the weather world, spring is always followed by summer. But the political world is different. Spring can proceed to summer, or it can lead to a sudden onset of winter.

That was the case this year in the Middle East, which in 2011 saw the Arab Spring. Egypt, which toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak last year, had a notable moment. "Egyptians choose their leader for first time in 5,000 years," read a headline in The Daily Telegraph of London.

But after elected President Mohamed Morsi claimed sweeping powers and rushed through a vote on a new constitution, tens of thousands of protesters chanted, "Shave your beard, show your disgrace, you will find that you have Mubarak's face!"

In Tunisia, President Moncef Marzouki, appearing at a ceremony commemorating the first revolution of the Arab Spring, was greeted by a stone-throwing crowd angry at police brutality. Human Rights Watch accused the Iraqi government of carrying out mass arrests and holding the detainees for months without charges and incommunicado.

The government that took over in Libya after Moammar Gadhafi's removal struggled to assert control over armed militias—including one that killed the U.S. ambassador. Morocco's king, who responded to the 2011 protests by agreeing to share power, was widely accused of taking it back.

Syria's Bashar al-Assad declined to share power, preferring to carry out a savage war against opposition rebels that left 40,000 dead.

Green shoots were scarce elsewhere as well. The Islamist-dominated government of Turkey, a democracy that belongs to NATO, now imprisons more journalists than any nation on Earth. A 15-year-old Pakistani girl survived being shot in the head by a Taliban assailant for the sin of advocating education for girls.

When it holds elections next year, Pakistan may achieve something new. "No civilian, elected leader in Pakistani history has ever completed a full term in office and then passed power to an elected successor," noted The Economist magazine.

China installed new rulers, making Hu Jintao, The Wall Street Journal noted, "the first Communist Chinese leader to cede all formal powers without bloodshed, purges or political unrest."

Chinese novelist Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature and said the government's censorship was no more objectionable than airport security measures. Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, may disagree, since he is serving an 11-year prison term for signing a petition in favor of human rights.

A rare positive development came in Burma, whose government has undertaken major political reforms. After spending most of the past two decades under house arrest, dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi led her party to victory in parliamentary elections.

"It's becoming difficult to find things to complain about," remarked an official of a dissident exile group. Barack Obama marked the improvement by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, won re-election despite runaway inflation and rampant crime. Apparently unable to defeat the cancer for which he has undergone multiple operations, El Comandante designated a preferred successor in case he is not available to serve.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who abetted terrorism, murder, and rape in Sierra Leone's civil war, became the first head of state convicted of crimes against humanity by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.

In Senegal, Africa's oldest democracy, President Abdoulaye Wade ran for a third term despite a two-term limit but lost. Mali suffered two military coups. On Thursday, the UN Security Council voted to send African troops to root out al-Qaida forces that have taken over the northern part of the country, but set no timetable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was inaugurated in May after police beat protesters with nightsticks and arrested hundreds. His spokesman later expressed regret about the police conduct: "I would have liked them to act more harshly."

The government passed a law to punish unauthorized demonstrations with fines as high as $9,000 per person. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told me that Putin is mounting "the biggest crackdown in Russia since the Soviet era."

In that respect, Putin is acting in the spirit of the times. Climate experts say 2012 will likely be the warmest year ever in the United States. In the global political realm, though, it's been a Big Chill.


NEXT: Ronald Bailey on How Half the Facts You Know Are Probably Wrong

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  1. OK wow, sound like a pretty solid plan to me dude. Wow.

  2. Alt text: “I’m crushing your head.”

    1. I’m smashing your face

    2. Gives a head start to whatever the caption will be in Vladimir Putin Action Comics, which seemed to be on hiatus last I looked.

      1. Maybe Vladimir Putin Detective Comics? Put the guy in a green suit and bowler hat, and he is a pretty good ringer for Frank Gorshin’s Riddler.

  3. OT: Another libertarian* bites the dust.

    *I determined this not because he is the “self-described King of Rock and Roll Debauchery” who lives in a house called the “Sausage Castle” and flaunts government licensing schemes, but from his “live free or die” tattoo.

    1. Tried, but couldn’t shut off the ad.

    2. That’s totally cosmo. We can be cool kids too! After all we support WEED!

    3. The deputy also noted that several people were smoking marijuana at the party and “(Ward) made no attempt to stop the illegal acts.”

      HazelMeade approves of this arrest.

  4. People crave a brutal man to rule them with an iron fist. But sometimes they crave a different brutal man to rule them with an iron fist.

    1. Read an article on the French riots after Sarkozy was elected, comparing them to the 1968 riots.
      The ’68 riots supposedly concerned a higher educational system lacking in sufficient input from and care about the students; they were intended to *change* the way things were done.
      The post election riots were the start of the ‘anti-austerity’ riots with the intention of keeping things as the are, the opposite of the ’68 riots; progs as regressives.
      The taxonomy of ‘Arab-spring’ riots remains in question.

    2. Statists are so terrified of individual rights and individuals running their own lives that they would rather have their most contrary statist foe in office than have no statist in charge.

  5. Who gives a fuck about brown people or tyranny? Kate Middleton is having a royal baby!

  6. Global collectivism, welfare statism, and bad philosophy beget global depression. Where individualism dies, so does everything else.

    1. ” Where individualism dies, so does everything else.”

      I am gonna use that.

    2. I +1 this comment. The fact is that these people WANT their societal systems. They might not like Saddam Hussein throwing them in Prison. But when it comes to oppressing women and killing Jews, atheists, and gays, they all will take the side of, as the PC army(lefties, neo-cons, and cosmos) would say “anti-western” side. But saying these people are anything but little brown versions of ourselves is apparently “racist.” So we hold out hope that if only evil man X is killed, the people will come out to the streets and yell for FREEDOM!!!!!!!!

  7. “””China installed new rulers, making Hu Jintao, The Wall Street Journal noted, “the first Communist Chinese leader to cede all formal powers without bloodshed, purges or political unrest.”””

    As long as you don’t count Bo Xilai nor any of the other people in China who are less well known and don’t make the newspapers but do end up in jail for not being in lock step with the Chinese Party leaders.

  8. Political seasons are not so unpredictable. Who the hell thought the arab spring would be followed by the summer of democracy ? I mean aside from our Kenyan villiage idiot?

    1. What, don’t you read Reason? According to the writers here, all cultures are equal and Muslims are peaceful, democracy loving people just like Westerners.

      HIspanics, too, so open up the borders and let them all in, it won’t have any effect on us. Except really cheap labor.

  9. The important thing is that when people from these oppressed regions come to America, they’ll vote Democrat and vote against probably 90% of any limited government agendas.

    Believe you me, Asians typically have no issue with government regulating their lives for the sake of….. some things. “Responsible government” is not always synonymous with “limited government” to them. Oh, and government ran healthcare, they’ll love that. In America, they will now (more or less) get healthcare without paying into a national healthcare system like they do back in their country.

    Secure the borders with super glue, the country can’t afford to go any less white! Stop them from fleeing their oppressive motherland and flooding in here to America slightly less free every 4 years!

  10. Why are we being trolled lately by xenophobes?

    Lefty idiots, primitivist idiots, now xenophobe idiots. What is the next season of trolls?

    1. They all have the same MO. Someone’s got some busy sock puppets.

      1. Yes, we all disagree with 1% of the population.

        1. American Is Back| 12.24.12 @ 6:10PM |#
          “Yes, we all disagree with 1% of the population.”

          You’re a troglodytic racist, asshole.

          1. Then you won’t mind if they camp in your yard, and you surely won’t mind paying confiscatory taxes (and astronomical money printing) in order to pay for the welfare state that supports them.

            You are living in the past, bozo. The europeans who came here a hundred years ago were actually coming here to make a better life, because there was no welfare state and no gimmedatz. Now, we incentivize criminals and rotters to come here and get free shit.

            Mass, unchecked immigration in a welfare state is a recipe for national suicide. And I hope you get a front row seat when it happens.

      2. Speaking of which, here’s the little xenophobe now.

  11. To hear Chapamn tell it, it’s as if he’s surprised. I wasn’t. These people don’t want liberty. They might want democracy, but only so THEY can choose who gets thrown in prison. 3/4 of Egyptians thought the act of “abandoning Islam” should be a CAPITAL CRIME. But leftards, neo-cons, and cosmatarians want us to believe that the people are just little brown versions of ourselves, totally fine wanting a western style system, because that’s PROGRESS. History always moves toward progress.

    1. American Is Back| 12.24.12 @ 6:09PM |#
      …”These people”…

      Definition missing.

      1. He referenced Egyptians later in the post. Or could have been referring to the collective group of oppressed people referred to by Chapman.

  12. Suthenboy| 12.24.12 @ 5:48PM |#

    Why are we being trolled lately by xenophobes?

    Lefty idiots, primitivist idiots, now xenophobe idiots. What is the next season of trolls?

    Yeah unfortunately, the same people who somehow decry the loss individualism, wants to mold the US into the society they want.

    Never mind the fact that 36% of voters (with 1/3 of population voting) in Egypt were strongly against the Islamic Constitution, and never mind the fact that these collectivists–Libertarius, America, Santorum, Mallory, et. al.–use Democracy, the very same method of those they criticize, as their excuse for being xenophobic.

    If it were all about “those people” how is that people from a singular culture can strongly disagree about something so fundamental? Ever single attack by these assholes reeks of collectivist projection. Where’s the supposed advocacy of individualism?

    Now, I can understand the connotations meant when “culture” is used, but ultimately I’ve concluded that’s not accurate at all. It is simply about mindset. As Heinlein surmised, no matter what label you use, or who people are, where they’re from, you can break people down into two camps: those who want to forcefully control others, and those who don’t.

    1. That statist desire, which varies by degrees, is not relegated to any culture and in fact permeates everywhere, as we can witness here among these fools. The libertarian, truly freedom oriented mindset is unfortunately only a very small minority among all us 7 billion chimpanzees in the world, and is neither unique to any culture or peoples. In fact, see Libertarianism in Ancient China (audio, youtube version)

      1. The problem, first off, is that cosmos are just as much culture warriors as I am. Whenever I claim that the majority of marriages ending in divorce is a problem you inform me that I’m a “collectivist,” for wanting children to be raised in a traditional family. Mind you, I am not advocating policies to achieve this end, simply stating it as desirable. Now the idea that culture is somehow unimportant is idiotic. Simply because statism and libertarianism can be found everywhere doesn’t mean that some cultures aren’t inherently statist. Mohamedian, especially Arab cultures tend to be very statist, as confirmed repeatedly by opinion polling of the regions residents. True, some Egyptians do sorta kinda believe in freedom, though the concept, it must be emphasized, is a very alien one. Those who believe it tend to be westernized, in cosmo/liberal jargon victims of “cultural imperialism.” It then makes us wonder why democracy is then desirable to libertarians if the majority of people are statists. It is desirable because the cosmos have a similar outlook to the neo-cons and liberals. It is this outlook that leads np to accuse me of being “collectivist.”

        1. We wrote similar facts, that a large majority of Egyptians oppose freedom. I pointed out that the reason what Chapman(the cosmo of cosmos) described is happening because the culture of the people is at it’s heart anti-freedom. Np, the good little cosmo that he is, sees any application of culture whatsoever as “racist,” as his liberal society taught him to. So he says nothing about the matter. He simply tells himself that everyone is an individual, so when Eqyptians go to the polls, he thinks of them as little brown versions of Americans, as any good liberal/neo-con/cosmo should. Then, when they vote in Islamists, he is amazed. Likewise the Neo-cons were amazed that when they invaded Iraq, our little brown thought of us as the enemy.

          1. There is no doubt you are a classic racist. Your claims that ‘these people do X’ (definition unstated) make it clear you are unable to deal with people as other than part of a herd. Put simply, it is the simplistic preserve of the true ignoramus.
            Now I tried to get through this and the up-thread post, and while there are marginally interesting points, you continue to see people as part of herds.
            Wanna try again after some real (REAL) thought?

          2. WRT Democracy: I don’t believe in democracy and it’s fallacious to conflate it with freedom.

            But you love it. Why? Every post you and others complain about people coming here to vote certain ways, and point fingers when others vote in other countries. That gives you an excuse that underlies your bigotry. Without democracy, you wouldn’t have that excuse. And without democracy, you’d also be completely powerless in your advocacy.

            You also completely skip over my point about the significant minority who are against the constitution and in fact want a secular government. Your thesis cannot account for that.

            Yes, I too was not expecting a good outcome and expected worse, again because of democracy. All my posts in previous Arab Spring threads already indicate that. But I don’t expect much better anywhere else either. Hell, if you want to bring religion into it, might as well blame the entire Abrahamic branch. Lots of statist tyranny in the good part A.D. history there. Mohamed just his part to it in the middle east. I think a return to Babylonian Iraq, Buddhist Afghanistan, Zorostrian Iran/Aryan (RG Vedic) Iran, would probably be better for the region. Likewise I think the same for Europe in its return to pagan roots. Ironic how Celtic Ireland was much more free in its anarchic society for millenia prior

            1. But then you see, religion is not a panacea either. Because even with religions providing an rationale for oppression, that doesn’t explain how some people, manage to break free of the tyrannical mindset, even whilst maintaining different personal beliefs, all the while being of the same cultures or society.

              Your bigoted thesis also cannot explain how western civilization also came to be socialist and statist, long before any kind of supposed third world invasion. According to the same logic you use, that would also indicate that western peoples are also inherently anti-freedom.

              1. According to the same logic you use, that would also indicate that western peoples are also inherently anti-freedom.

                I don’t understand why that is such a controversial proposition. The vast majority of people in every major country in every geographical region on this planet are what we as libertarians would think of as “statist”, although they may be less or more so on any given issue, usually based on the extent to which the state affects them. The future belongs to fascists and socialists, and neither one will make good bedfellows with libertarians.

                1. I agree, however the degree is important. White Americans in the republican party may favor certain “statist” economic philosophies. Is taxing you a little equivalent to shooting you for insulting the prophet?

              2. I have argued previously that because we have democracy, it will be hard to import millions of “hispanics” and Muslims into our nation. Now you commit what I call the stereotype fallacy, common amoung liberals, neo-cons, and cosmos. Because a certain thing, say A, does not ALWAYS lead to B, then A cannot cause B. Because playing Russian roulette does not always kill you, Russian roulette doesn’t kill you. Because there are “moderate” Muslims, then Islam cannot lead to statism. Liberty in it’s totality is a western idea. In all civilized society there has been rulers who lived off of high taxes, slavery, laws prohibiting adultery, and the like. Only in Western culture has the idea of natural rights existed. That doesn’t mean there is no statism. What I’m trying to say is that in Mohameidan cultures the ideas of liberty and democracy, permanent democracy, are foreign. In your head you know I’m right.

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