Opinion Brief

Has the Arab Spring weakened the U.S.?

Popular uprisings are stoking hopes of democratic reform in North Africa and the Middle East, but they are also creating new dangers

The Arab Spring is transforming into a "bloody summer," as dictatorial governments resort to increasingly violent means to crush popular rebellions. But democracy activists aren't the only ones facing an uncertain future. Autocratic regimes have collapsed, or are close to collapsing, in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere, weakening or eliminating American allies in the fight against jihadists. The turmoil is also straining already struggling economies, increasing social tensions, and further threatening the region's stability. Will these pro-democracy uprisings wind up doing the U.S. more harm than good?

The revolts make fighting terrorism harder: Ultimately, "a freer, fairer, more equitable and stable Arab world" is a good thing, says Christopher Dickey at Newsweek. But the unrest might make American spies nostalgic for "the bad old days." The "thuggish tyrants" who are being tossed aside were ugly, but predictable. We might not want to admit it, but catching terrorists was easier when suspects could be "snatched off the streets" and interrogated without anybody batting an eye."Intelligence test"

Well, our old allies didn't exactly make us safer: I don't buy the argument that the U.S. was better off when it could ask Egpyt's Hosni Mubarak to "have troublemakers tortured and/or killed," says Peter Hart at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Remember when an al Qaeda operative was brutally interrogated in Egypt, and provided false information about a link between the terrorist network and Saddam Hussein? That wasn't exactly helpful. If anything, the "compelling evidence" suggests Mubarak's friendship provided only false security."Newsweek's nostalgia for Arab dictatorships"

Either way, be glad the old regimes are crumbling: "The prospect of a fragmented Middle East would present unexpected new dilemmas both for the region and for the West," says The Media Line. But remember, it wasn't easy propping up these unpopular and brutal regimes so they could help fight Islamists, and it didn't exactly endear us to their suffering constituents. The Middle East is "undergoing a historic change," and we'll just have to figure out how to deal with it once "the dust settles."  "Does Arab Spring herald a more fragmented Mideast?"

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