My column this week, "How Syria Ruined the Arab Spring", tries to step back from the intervention debate to look at the broader ways in which that country’s escalating horrors have altered the trajectory of political contestation across the entire region. It traces some very specific ways in which the Syrian civil war has altered the region over the last year: the endless, escalating and unavoidably visible violence; the regional proxy struggles; the focus on international intervention; the shift from unity to sectarianism; the dramatic effects on the international and Arab media coverage of the region.
The essay has already generated some really interesting commentary and discussion, particularly about trends which I might have missed or downplayed, and whether these trends could have been avoided or are at this point reversible. And then there’s the predictable 57 variations on "oh noes, he called it the Arab Spring", 73 versions of "I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Syrian people for being depressing", and all the finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the disaster. Duly noted. But can anyone really deny that Syria’s uprising has taken a very different path and has had a very different impact on its people and on the region than any other of the Arab uprisings?
My essay is only one of many efforts to make sense of those differences and trends, and like all of them may well get some important points or degrees of emphasis wrong. I really wanted to try to broaden the discussion beyond the intense debate going on right now about intervention, chemical weapons red lines, and the like — though I’m sure I’ll engage on those soon enough as well. But for now, I look forward to a discussion on the broader trajectories — thanks to those who have already contributed, and to those who will. So go on and read my essay on Syria’s effects on the path of the Arab uprisings.