Jones: Can the Egyptian revolution be counted a success while the Armed Forces remain in power?
One of the West’s gravest weaknesses, at a time of transition and turmoil, is its tendency to view the world through the prism of highly abbreviated timelines that correspond neither to what’s realistic in other countries nor even our own long history of turbulent transformation. Democracy was born in the West over two hundred years of wars and setback; yet we want to see post-conflict states that have emerged from thirty or more years of bloody civil wars establish democracies within the five year lifespan of donor projects and international peacekeeping operations. This creates totally false expectations, deters genuine progress, and leaves the field open to other actors more tolerant of longer transitions – for example, China. Nine months into the Arab Spring we’re repeating this mistake, looking for outcomes and successes within a revolutionary year. Everything that we know about revolution and political transition tells us that the timeframe in which to judge success or failure in various Arab Spring transitions is a decade or more. Short term markers along the way are important, of course, and so long as the Armed Forces remain in power in Egypt the deeper democratic transition that Tahrir Square demanded remains unfulfilled. But strategic patience, not a rush to judgment, is the order of the day.