No one could accuse Thomas Friedman, author and op-ed writer for The New York Times, as being anything but an all-American booster of and for his country. It therefore sits more than untidely to read his latest "offering" in the Times dealing with the Arab Spring and where it might be headed. His description of the situation in many Arab countries is doubtlessly correct, but hey, weren't the Americans the biggest supporters of these corrupt and thug-like leaders, etc. etc?
If there is one thought that summarizes the strength and weakness of the Arab awakenings, it’s the one offered by Daniel Brumberg, a co-director of the democracy and governance studies program at Georgetown University, who observed that the Arab awakenings happened because the Arab peoples stopped fearing their leaders — but they stalled because the Arab peoples have not stopped fearing each other.
This dichotomy is no surprise. That culture of fear was exactly what the dictators fed off of and nurtured. Most of them ran their countries like Mafia dons operating “protection rackets.” They wanted their people to fear each other more than the leader, so that each dictator or monarch could sit atop the whole society, doling out patronage and protection, while ruling with an iron fist. But it will take more than just decapitating these regimes to overcome that legacy. It will take a culture of pluralism and citizenship. Until then, tribes will still fear tribes in Libya and Yemen, sects will still fear sects in Syria and Bahrain, the secular and the Christians will still fear the Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia and the philosophy of “rule or die” will remain a potent competitor to “one man, one vote.”