Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, writes to express his concern that 'respect for the rights of individuals and the rule of law' ought to be a feature of the polity now in process of formation in Egypt, and part of the thinking in preparation for a successor government to Assad's in Syria. This is a very necessary concern; I take it there is no need to argue for the point here. But Roth prefaces what he has to say with the following rather odd first paragraph:
It has been two years since the Arab uprisings began, and those early, heady days of euphoria seem a thing of the distant past. Since then, we have seen the rise of Islamist political forces that many fear will cite religion to threaten the rights of women, minorities and dissidents. Security forces continue to overreach, as in Egypt's response to recent rioting. It turns out that, difficult as it is to end abusive rule, it is perhaps still harder to build a rights-respecting democracy on a legacy of repression.
It turns out that?! I don't know, maybe Roth prepared this in a hurry. The response to the early days of the Arab spring was surely bound to be one mixing hope (for progressive political developments) with caution (lest things should not go well). However, that it might be hard to build 'a rights-respecting democracy on a legacy of repression', indeed after decades of abusive rule, I wouldn't have thought could confound the expectations of any thoughtful student of human affairs. Weighty political forces in play whose ideas about democracy, liberal freedoms, the rights of women and a certain amount more didn't and don't closely resemble those of John Stuart Mill; much well-known history of how revolutions end badly; the prize of political power - always coveted - to be contested by groups with radically opposed outlooks. What could possibly go wrong?