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The Arab Spring’s Balance Sheet

As the Arab world's old regimes vanish, the region’s entire value system, forged by autocracy, is also being transformed. But, if the Arab Spring fails from lack of external support, the result will not be dictatorships that are loyal to the West, but rather a tsunami of rage that will spare no one.

CAIRO – Last year’s events in Egypt and Tunisia drew the curtain on a tottering old order and delivered much of the Arab world into a long-awaited new era. But what that new era will look like remains very much an open question, given the many challenges that the region’s countries still face.

The old order that has begun to vanish extends beyond the former regimes. The region’s entire value system – a political culture forged by autocracy – is being transformed. Arab men and women have shed the sense of humiliation and inferiority that despotism imposed on them – and that fostered desperation, anger, violence, and insularity.

This transformation, though far from complete – indeed, it may well last years – has nonetheless started to bear fruit. If the 2011 uprisings had not occurred, we would now be witnessing another year of autocracy, with more talk of dynastic successions. That would mean further humiliation for ordinary people, who bear the brunt of corruption, as government officials and their crony capitalists continued to siphon off public funds.

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