Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Between Reform and Reaction: The Syrian and Moroccan Responses to the Arab Spring

Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Between Reform and Reaction: The Syrian and Moroccan Responses to the Arab Spring

Article excerpt


This paper argues that the Arab Spring is caused by a diverse set of causes that include government repression, the development of overseas communities and economic hardship. In addition, the paper identifies the changes in information technologies as a permissive cause of the Arab Spring. The paper explores normative issues related to revolution as well as the broader issues of order and justice in international affairs. It uses a comparative case study methodology and offers some policy prescriptions for Syria and Morocco.

Keywords: Arab Spring, Syria, Morocco, Case Studies, Order, Justice, Revolution, Political Reform.


In terms of political science and international studies, the concept of order and its cost was the object of contention between the English school and its more liberal opponents. A major premise of the English school is that without order, even the possibility of justice does not exist (Bull, 1971). Critics, on the other hand, see that "order" is often used a justification for the denial of justice (Ray, 1999). This paper argues that the English school is broadly correct in its approach to order, but that while order is foundational to the possibility of "justice" or "progress," maintaining it depends on the steps that follow its (re-)establishment. In many ways, the Arab Spring provides us with an excellent opportunity to study the interplay of order and justice. On the one hand, there are revolutionary social movements striving to alter the relationship between the Arab state and its citizens and on the other hand there are governments representing structure and organization and reflecting the value of order. In the words of James Woolsey, there are some decent governments in the Arab world, but none has reached democracy (Woolsey, 2002).Woolsey's division of Arab governments suggests that they react to the Arab Spring in vastly divergent ways. These divergent reactions can serve as the basis of the re-establishment of order, the seeding of chaos, or anything in between. The use of force was present in all countries at various levels and so were calls for dialogue and compromise, but the emphasis on one aspect or another of the government's response was crucial.

Some states chose to war against the revolutionaries, these included Bahrain, Khadafy's Libya and Assad's Syria, others chose to compromise to an extent including Algeria, Jordan and Morocco. Under neither policy were results even, as with the issue of use of force, outcomes are best understood in relative terms. Of course, relativity also implies comparison with peer states. It would be patently unfair to compare the Arab states with the countries of the European Union or even ASEAN, because their history makes them very different from other aspirant democracies to the point where comparison could not teach us much. The members of the Arab League are peer states with similar histories, demographics, culture and concerns, so they would be a good basis for comparative case studies vis-à-vis each other. Using a structured case study methodology, this study examines the approaches used by two Arab League governments to the complex of social and revolutionary movements collectively known as the Arab Spring. The first section addresses the normative questions associated with the question of the Arab Spring, the second section samples the current literature on the Arab Spring, the third section offers the framework of analysis used by this study, the fourth section addresses Syria and Morocco in comparison, and the fifth section offers policy prescriptions for Arab governments like Morocco's and for their partners in Europe and North America. There are no policy prescriptions for the Syrian government, because the course it embarked on leaves us no room for any suggestions, but there are some suggestions for a future Syrian regime informed by a meeting the author held with Syrian workers in Lebanon during the summer of 2012. …

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