October 22 2012
This commentary appeared on USA Today on October 21, 2012.
The current unrest in Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East, is mistakenly being blamed on the Arab Spring. Even before the recent violence, many observers were quick to declare that spring had rapidly turned to winter in the Arab world. Here at home, and just before the presidential debate on foreign policy tonight, a Pew Research Center poll showed that Americans are increasingly skeptical that the Arab Spring will lead to lasting change. The survey, released last week, found that 57% of Americans (up from 43% in April 2011) do not believe that the uprisings will improve the lives of people in those countries.
But the roots of the unrest are not in the desire to cast off authoritarian regimes that took expression in Arab Spring protests. The roots came before the uprisings, and progress will take longer than we wish.