Remember Arab Spring? No, not the deodorant soap, but rather the surge toward democracy in the Middle East that started some three years ago. There were demonstrations and conflicts of all kinds, violent, non-violent, big, and small. There was a feeling that Al Gore's Internet may have helped move the cause along as much as anything else. Finally, there was a revolution where the whole world was watching, texting, tweeting, posting and coming together.
Now in Egypt, the army is back in charge. Syrian Kurd refugees are fleeing south into Iraq in fear of rebel groups who continue to battle pro-government forces. One of Lebanon's most powerful Sunni politicians accused the leader of
the Shiite militant group Hezbollah of dragging their country
further into neighboring Syria's civil war. United States embassies in sixteen countries that make up that region were closed for fear that may be as much about the vulnerability of certain embassies and
staff and the range of increasingly mobile terrorists as it is about
All of this made me wish for a diplomatic magic wand. Political pixie dust that could be sprinkled on the Middle East to remind everyone of the enthusiasm that existed for a few shining months way back there in 2010. I understand the historical absurdity of peace in the Middle East, but it's also on a short list of dreams I have harbored since I was a kid.
I grew up during a very tumultuous time, a time during which I saw a great many Time Magazine covers seemed to alternate between Watergate and the unrest in the Arab world. When talks began between Egypt and Israel, I believed that I might grow up in a world that was different. Richard Nixon was gone, and Jimmy Carter was now presiding over a settlement between Begin and Sadat. There were hugs and handshakes. And lots of smiles.
The shine from their Nobel Peace Prize was only beginning to diminish when Sadat was murdered, Begin ordered an attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter. The dream that was Camp David became an historical memory.
And now, Arab Spring has moved into the dog days of summer. Were those winds of change just another desert storm? I leave the last words for Mister Sadat:
Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of
equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the
Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples,
and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that
you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to
what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to
the hopes of mankind.