This week marks both the annual celebration of American Independence, the overthrow of Egypt’s first elected president, Morsi, and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a pivotal point in the US Civil War. While unrelated on the surface, all three are landmarks in building a nation and while we’ve yet to see the outcome of Egypt’s struggle with democracy, the other two certainly have appeared fruitful. Today the US is a thriving democracy with a strong economy. Meanwhile, many commentators have placed Egypt in another group – the failed Arab Spring.
Altogether, five nations have seen protests resulting in massive political upheaval with demonstrations in Tunisa, Yemen, and Egypt bringing in new leaders, and armed revolts in Lybia and Syria leading to both democracy and an uncertain ongoing civil war respectively. The outcomes of these revolutions has been highly criticized by many on both the left and the right who claim that the costs of such revolutions will outweigh any benefits as the economies of Egypt and Lybia are in turmoil and most of Syria is still a warzone with no end in sight. Often onlookers will remark, either cynically or racially, that Arab countries are not ready for democracy and that they lack the institutions or culture to support it. This critique was formerly lobbed at the US when it tried to impose democracy on Iraq after overthrowing Saddam’s regime with a lead story from The Economist labeling it “Democracy at Gunpoint.” However, liberals will be quick to remark that the Arab Spring is different in that democracy imposed lacks the ummm…democracy that a spontaneous self-propelled revolution inspires. Still there are those who point to every short-coming of these revolutions as evidence that they have already failed after only 2 years. These people have either forgotten their own history of the American Revolution or have gotten so used to instant gratification that they accept nothing less. Did the American Revolution look any better after 2 years? after 10? From where we are now the revolution looks like a beacon of success but what was it really like in those years following independence? Here are some things to keep in mind.