The Long Revolt
The Arab world’s wave of change was a century in the making. Why expect its effects to become clear in the space of months?
We are witnessing today the culmination of a century of Arab popular struggle for freedom and sovereignty. That struggle was interrupted by many decades of often illusory statehood under the reign of autocrats who were enthusiastically supported by foreign powers. Today’s struggle is the single most significant movement of Arab citizens and citizenries since the modern Arab world was created in the early 20th century.
That world was born amid revolts against the region’s Ottoman and European overlords. When the European colonial powers finally retreated, the Ottomans having been swept aside by their defeat in World War I, they left behind a collection of Arab countries they essentially had manufactured for their own convenience out of their particular dominions. Twenty-two nominally sovereign Arab states ultimately emerged, and they limped into the 21st century battered and tattered by a combination of forces: their own economic mismanagement and corruption; regional wars and occupations involving Israel, Iran, and recurring invasions by the United States and Britain; severe income disparities resulting from the misuse of oil and gas wealth; and a stunning record of sustained autocracy and authoritarianism unmatched by any other region of the world.
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Rami G. Khouri, a former public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is an internationally syndicated columnist and the director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.more from this author >>