In the early days of the Arab Spring, the world looked on
breathlessly as democracy movements swept across a part of the
world long considered a bastion of authoritarianism. Tunisia. Then
Egypt. And Libya. Optimists saw a democratic wave gathering steam,
becoming an inexorable force for greater freedom and political
participation. But achieving democratic change is never easy. Both
Tunisia and Egypt seem paralyzed by disputes between Islamists and
secularists. Instability continues to plague Libya and Yemen. And
longstanding dictatorships such as the Assad regime in Syria are
not conceding easily. Where do things go from here?
In Understanding Tahrir Square, Brookings scholar Stephen R.
Grand looks at the experience of Third Wave democratizers elsewhere
around the globe, in order to improve our understanding of the
prospects for Arab democracy. The title refers to Tahrir Square,
the Cairo public space that became a focal point in the Egyptian
Revolution. At one time, it seemed as if that name would take on
the same resonance as the fall of the Berlin Wall did more than two
decades ago, but the promise of Tahrir has faded as democracy's
march seems to have stalled in the region. Unrest continues to
shake Egypt, and rebels are stymied in Syria. Is this to be
expected? Based on past experiences elsewhere, how is democracy
eventually won? What can the United States and other democracies do
Grand includes instructive chapters on democracy movements in
Latin America, the former East bloc, Africa, and Asia. For each
region, Grand provides a series of case studies that ground the
discussion. In order of appearance, they are Chile, Argentina,
Venezuela, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, Ghana,
Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
He examines how democracy came to each region, the particular
challenges posed, and how each region fared. Two final chapters
summarize the lessons learned and the policy implications for Arab
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