The Arab Spring: Should Americans Care?

The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring
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This Saturday, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will be holding its annual Sutton Colloquium.  This year’s topic is  “Arab Spring and Its Unfinished Business: Law & Policy Issues.”

While the speakers and their academic interests are diverse, I think that all of the speakers should address one underlying and generally unasked question: Why should the audience, and Americans in general, care?  And, if Americans should care—as I imagine all the speakers will argue—is the Arab Spring a good thing for the United States?  Is the “democratization” (if that is what the Arab Spring can be called) of this region a good thing for the United States?

The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring

From my perspective, it is not.  As it relates to international relations, and international law, the Arab Spring has no effect on the United States because it will not affect the underlying balance of power in the region or worldwide, and it likely will not change our relations with those countries who participated in the Arab Spring.

First, the Arab Spring does not affect the United States because it will not change the underlying balance of power in the region—one State is not going to grower larger or more powerful because of this regional unrest.  And, theoretically, while Arab Spring States may engage in bilateral or multilateral agreements, they are unlikely to affect any power balance in the region.

Second, there will likely be no improvement in United State’s relations with the Arab Spring States because there is yet no showing that the Arab Spring will actually bring democracy to these States.  For example, recent news out of Egypt suggest that the military hold on power is tightening, possibly leading a military led dictatorship instead of a military leader led dictatorship (as Mubarak was a military leader prior to becoming president).

And yet, while Tunisia recently held elections shows progress, as the Iranian Revolution shows, electing Islamist parties doesn’t automatically mean peace and democracy.  While some scholars say that the Arab Spring will bring an era of post-Islamic States, implying a reduction in the threat of terrorism, the unrest in the region doesn’t necessarily mean more safety for now.

Therefore, when the Sutton Colloquium begins on Saturday, I hope the speakers take the time to tell us why it matters, because for the United States—as it stands now—it doesn’t seem like it does.