When the boot comes off the neck of the populace, the results sometimes are not at all what the original peaceful protesters envisioned and hoped for. Egypt is now increasingly hard-line Islamist (say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss) and Syria may well become a failed state with tribal retributions and foreign invaders vying for dominance. Assad is a thug and a pig but Syria did have a thriving economy. That economy is now rubble. Even if peace somehow comes now, it’ll take Syria years, maybe decades to recover. The entire Middle East could become destabilized.
What kept people in line was tyranny. Some dictators may have been “acquiescent”” in the eyes of the West, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, or “adversarial” like the Assads. But they “are going the way of the dodo,” says Miller. “I am not saying the region is headed for a catastrophic meltdown, but we are at one of those hinges of history when profound changes are taking place that we are singularly ill-equipped to understand.”
The US, through its usual bumbling arrogance, has managed to alienate most of the players in MENA and thus it’s not surprising that we don’t understand what’s happening there. We’ve never really tried to understand the area but rather sought only to impose our will on it.