Contemporary Arab Politics: a Concise History

Contemporary Arab Politics: a Concise History

Contemporary Arab Politics: a Concise History

Contemporary Arab Politics: a Concise History

Excerpt

It has become increasingly evident during the past twelve years that the Arabic-speaking world is in a state of revolution, and that it has rejected not only the Western imperialism of the nineteenth century, but also the constitutionalism that seemed (theoretically, at least) to be the beneficent aspect of that same Western cultural influence of which imperialism has been assumed (perhaps too summarily) to be the harmful aspect. I say "theoretically" because, in fact, the ruling classes of the Arab countries, partly relying on "imperialist" support for themselves but also indulging their own self-willed appetites for power and material gain, had so abused these liberal constitutions that their abolition by the new revolutionary regimes has occasioned remarkably little regret on anyone's part.

Revolutions are the raw process of history, in which the skin and cosmetics of more orderly periods are stripped off and the tissues and nerves of a society laid bare. The sight is sometimes one to turn a tender stomach. Violent deeds and still more violent words become the norm, as Thucydides once observed; and the dispassionate review of causes and events may become a luxury reserved for the historian belonging to a later generation or enjoying an exceptional degree of personal detachment.

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