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Arab Spring, or Arab Fall?

Like many millions across the world, watching the heartrending and blood boiling images of revolution, freedom and courage in the face of the despotism of regimes like Syria and Libya, I could not help but feel a sense of pride in my fellow man. Here were poorly armed men, women and children standing up for their beliefs and freedom and being killed in their thousands, yet they persevered. Who could not be beguiled and enthralled by such dignity and passion? The West reacted accordingly, and for more than a year have enthusiastically thrown in their support through hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal and non-lethal aid.

As dictator after dictator was toppled, through sheer force of arms, or popular defection, this part of the world was seemingly reaching a point of serene clarity and vision. The world could breathe a sigh of relief. Gaddafi’s regime was crumbling around him, the NATO air strikes hammering his beleaguered followers, and the blue, black and red of their revolutionary colours were flown triumphantly. For the West, the Arab Spring heralded a game change in the East. Something to support and something which would no doubt create lucrative assets and a spring board onto other despots who threaten world security.

Yet the grainy images of Gaddafi’s final moments are something which leaves a particularly sour taste. Blood pouring from a gash to his scalp, mumbling and crying amidst the crackle of Kalashnikovs barking into the air; he paints a pathetic picture. How the mighty fall. No international tribunal, no magnanimity in victory. A bullet to the temple sufficed. For many, this was a grim foreboding. What had the West created? There was no hiding the barbarity then. But Libya was free. This is what mattered and it was the West, who were great allies and support in this endeavour, who helped pushed it through. Seemingly the world was a safer place.

This is sadly not the case. The murder of the US Ambassador to Libya along with three other embassy staff on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is a hard and saddening wake up call to the world. How could this happen? President Obama’s administration fervently backed the Revolution and indeed the entire Arab Spring. Yet now, one of their greatest ambassadors, Chris Stevens, has been brutally killed. Chris Stevens was fluent in Arabic and believed passionately in the NATO mission in Libya, and his own role as Ambassador in a still volatile Benghazi. This did not save him. His car and staff riddled were with bullets and covered in flames.

The Arab Spring is spawning a new breed of fundamentalist Islamists. The instability of the East has allowed terrorist cells and other extreme organisations to infiltrate and manipulate the risings to their own ends. This tragic event goes to highlight the real dangers which are laying unearthed beneath the façade of reform and freedom. It is a chilling thought, and one which needs to be addressed very quickly. The reason for the riots and storming of the Embassy are for a blasphemous video, depicting the prophet Muhammad. But for the mob to turn so easily, to destroy so readily, still shocks. The video is condemned by Clinton as ‘disgusting and reprehensible’, yet how can it warrant such sudden and dramatic violence. The seeds of malcontent must be deeper.

Obama wants to overcome America’s troublesome relationship with the Muslim world. The Arab Spring was his chance, he took it, and now it’s bitten back. Cairo and Yemen have followed in suit. This latest controversy goes to highlight how far away the Arab Spring’s objective of stability is, and how much more the West need do, in order to achieve this.

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