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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Internationalist

What sprouted in the Arab Spring

A gutted civil society rediscovers its power—and, perhaps, a chance to rewrite the region’s future.

BEIRUT — Three years after the revolts of the Arab Spring, the reformers’ initial euphoria has given way in much of the region to weariness and even despair. Civil war has overtaken Syria; Egypt is under the thumb of a newly aggressive military junta. In Bahrain, the opposition is in disarray or detention, despite representing a clear majority of the people; Libyans haven’t managed to tame the patchwork of warlords that overthrew Moammar Khadafy. Just recently, the head of the Maronite church in Lebanon joined the pessimistic chorus by talking about an “Arab winter.”

In writings, private conversations, and political forums, many of the most committed partisans of the popular uprisings are starting to ask just what has changed. What, if anything, did the Arab revolts actually accomplish?

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