The Pendulum in Motion: The Arab World between Revolution and Counterrevolution
Seven years since the Arab Spring, the prospects for Middle East democracy have diminished markedly. Why? Popular forces mounted uprisings but most didn't follow through. Authoritarians regrouped and reorganized themselves under the mantle of "enlightened despotism", whose projects to deliver order and modernity masked a deeper effort to destroy opposition and atomize societies. There were dramatic shifts in the geopolitical arena, where conflicts became "sectarianized" and the Gulf kingdoms became regional power brokers. The disruption of domestic politics by such geopolitical dynamics is unprecedented. However, the new counterrevolutionary impulse paradoxically clings to an impossible future by referencing a mythical past as if the Arab Spring never happened - while in the present, resistance and dissent continue to erupt. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi exposes how this counterrevolutionary campaign has lost its footing. But the prospects for democracy remain precarious, particularly as democracy faces a recession around the globe.
Hicham Alaoui is a "dissident" member of the ruling family in the Kingdom of Morocco often referred to in the media as "the Red Prince" for his pro-democracy stance. He is a Research Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, specializing in issues of comparative democratization.