The US, now embroiled in an international hotpot of anger over an anti-Islamic film, is losing the Arab Spring game in every possible way. Not that the series of often violent protests were trivial at all, merely that they spawned a fresh bout of diplomatic dancing. Recent violence includes an attack on the US Embassy in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which left the Ambassador dead, protests and vandalism at the US Embassy in Cairo, the breaking into of the US Embassy in Yemen, as well as similar scenes in Tunisia. Protests outside the US and other nations’ embassies have also sprung up across the Arab world, from Afghanistan to Azerbaijan. This is hardly surprising, if you cast your mind back to the Arab Spring then you’ll remember how the use of the media was effectively what toppled the regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, and resulted in the resignations of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Former-President of Tunisia), and Ali Abdullah Saleh (Former President of Yemen).
Throughout the Arab Spring the US took the position of cautiously supporting the protests; not always directly endorsing them, but promoting the right to free speech, which is essentially the same thing. The underlying aim of all this was that America would, after any successful revolutions, be regarded in a better light than before; maybe even gaining a few more allies in unstable regions. Nowhere was this more the case than in Libya, where NATO enforced a no-fly zone and bombed Gaddafi-loyal military installations.
Now the West faces a nation they believe to be close to nuclear weapons capability amid a landscape of increasing violence.
So what’s happened now? One film has turned thousands against the West, or rather, one film has not helped relations between the West and the Middle East. It’s not necessary to take sides over the film to see that the US, and increasingly the West as a whole, has failed to achieve one of their main aims of the Arab Spring. Now the West faces a nation they believe to be close to nuclear weapons capability, with whom relations are non-existent, amid a landscape of increasing violence.
However it should be noted that the speed and ferocity with which the protests are developing demonstrates that this would probably have happened eventually. Changing the attitudes of millions does not come with the toppling of one violent dictator. This was true of Iraq also.
The Arab Spring may be in its final stages, with the exception of Syria, but now is arguably the most important face: whether the changes will stick. Corruption can go very deep in politics, you need to get it all to start afresh.
All this points to the conclusion that nobody has won the Arab Spring game, but you can be sure of this, the US is losing. The duration and depth of these protests will decide whether or not that story stays the same. As always, keep an eye on the news.