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Have the Arab Uprisings Lost Their Spring?

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Nothing, it seems, is quite what it seems. If even illustrious experts spectacularly failed to foresee the seismic shifts engulfing the Arab world, how is the ordinary observer supposed to make sense of events? How may we distinguish fact from fiction, wheat from chaff, real value from face value?

Turning to the political class for answers is no panacea, for insight and prescience are hardly their strong suits, either. Take Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: no sooner had he boasted "there is only one country in the whole of the Middle East that has no troubles, no protests - that's Israel," than his country's social protest movement erupted beneath him.

The leaders of other professed democracies were similarly caught off guard when tent cities started to mushroom in one advanced capitalist state after another, railing against social and economic injustices. If the uprisings in the Arab world were a response to decades of oppressive autocratic misrule, the escalating protests in the Western world were a product of a deepening democratic deficit, brought sharply to a head by years of financial recklessness.

The common link was the voice of the powerless (the "99%") demanding a consequential say in their destinies. If Western politicians initially thought their societies would act as templates for the Arab world of the future, their own citizens' revolt soon put paid to such a smug assumption.

The misnamed "Arab Spring," heavy with both hope and danger, is, in reality, impersonating all four seasons, as events twist and turn, and rock and roll. In countries where the ruling powers seem geared up to battle it out to the bitter end - Syria being the leading contender at present - the joys of spring look set to give way to a truly ferocious winter.

But there is no clear pattern....