Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Children of Hannibal

The Arab Spring has not been going particularly well... or, I would say "not as planned" but I'm not sure anyone, other than the Muslim Brotherhood, engaged in a great deal of planning.

This sweeping political change throughout the region began in 2010 in a small Tunisian town.  The peripatetic on-line correspondent Michael Totten revisited the country recently and found some signs for hope.  It's an interesting piece with a broad historical perspective:
It should come as no surprise, then, that this area [of North Africa] became the overseas core of the Roman Empire. But an advanced civilization existed there long before Rome arrived. Legend has it that in roughly 900 BC, a princess named Elissa was exiled from the Phoenician city of Tyre, in what today is southern Lebanon. (Most Westerners are more familiar with her Greek name, thanks to Virgil, who immortalized her as Dido in The Aeneid.) She founded a new city on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and became its queen.  That city was Carthage, and it became a megacity by antiquity’s standards, with 300,000 residents. Indeed, the city was so dense that the Carthaginians built six-story apartment buildings to house everyone, a feat that had never before been accomplished.
Totten tends toward pessimism but even he found some signs for hope.
The fact remains that Tunisia, while politically liberal in some ways, has no actual experience with working democracy. “My feeling is that Tunisia will cross five years of uncertainty,” says [Tunisian diplomat Ahmed] Ounais. “But the trend is toward a strong Arab democratic society. Within five years, I think we will stabilize with a new legislative assembly and create a new tradition of democratic rule in the country. We are the ones who are creating this pattern of Arab politics. We are the first.”   Will the Arab Spring succeed in its extraordinary birthplace? Years are likely to pass before we’ll know for sure.
Read the whole thing here.

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