Global Ethics Corner: Is the Arab Spring Over?

Feb 4, 2013

The hope that existed at the beginning Arab Spring has been marred by violence and conflict in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere. Have we entered the Arab Winter? If so, how long will this phase last?

In December 2012, the political phenomenon known as the Arab Spring entered its third year. But the wave of reform, which began in December 2010 and led to regime changes in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, has turned violent and unpredictable. Many are calling this post-revolutionary phase the Arab Winter.

For months, secular opposition forces in Egypt have increased pressure on President Morsi, whom they accuse of attempting to consolidate power in the hands of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. And in the last week of January 2013, violent protests that began in the city of Port Said spread to the capital of Cairo. The growing chaos led defense minister and army chief of staff General Sisi to declare that the Egyptian state was in danger of collapse.

In neighboring Libya, the inability of the central government to control the nation’s numerous militias may have contributed to the killing of American ambassador Chris Stevens in an assault on a U.S. diplomatic compound in September 2012. The Los Angeles Times has reported that weapons originating in Libya have been smuggled into the hands of insurgents in Northern Mali, where French-led troops are currently engaged in a high-intensity conflict with Islamic rebel fighters.

In Syria, a bloody civil war waged by the rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army against the regime of President Assad has widened to include Islamist mujahidin and Kurdish militants. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has made refugees out of 700,000 Syrians.

As the novelist Thane Rosenbaum has noted, the Arab Spring succeeded in ending the rule of strongmen like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, but it has yet to deliver on the promise of stability and democracy in North Africa and the Middle East.

What do you think? Is the Arab Spring over? Have we entered the Arab Winter, and if so, how long will it last?

For more information see

Glen Johnson, "Libya weapons aid Tuareg rebellion in Mali," Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2012

David D. Kirkpatrick, "Chaos in Egypt Stirs Warning of a Collapse," The New York Times, January 29, 2013

Stephanie Nebehay, "Syrian refugees top 700,000, U.N. struggling to cope," Reuters, January 29, 2013

Hania Mourtada and Alan Cowell, "Adversaries in Syria Trade Blame for Scores of Killings in Aleppo," The New York Times, January 29, 2013

Thane Rosenbaum, "A Bleak Anniversary for the Arab Spring," The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2013

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:
Gwenael Piaser
Hossam el-Hamalawy
Collin Anderson [also for picture 4]
European External Action Service
Al Hussainy Mohamed
Mosa'ab Elshamy
Internews Network
Ammar Abd Rabbo
Secretary of Defense
European Commission DG ECHO [also for picture 16]
Thierry Llansades
James Gordon [also for picture 15]
World Economic Forum
Benoit Le Corre

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