Saturday, June 25, 2011

The New York Times: where is the George Soros for the Middle East and North Africa?

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right
notes Chrystia Freeland in an International Herald Tribune article that starts out well and logically and common-sensically, but later turns out to be a… Soros love-fest… One of the professors at the Budapest university praised as "one of the intellectual centers of the region’s political and economic transition" tells Freeland that “I may be the only academic in town who didn’t study on a Soros scholarship”.
The Arab Spring really is the most important political event since the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe. So it makes sense to find out what the East Europeans make of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and to ask what they think it will take to transform the promise of these rebellions into a lasting political transformation.

…The scholars and activists who gathered [in Budapest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Central European University] spent a lot of time debating the lessons of their revolution for the Arab Spring. Here are four of them:

The first is that selling democracy has become harder now than it was 20 years ago. That’s because, as Aryeh Neier, the human rights activist and head of the Open Society Foundations, explained, the equation of prosperity and democracy, which was universally acknowledged in 1989 and the period that followed, has broken down today.

A second big idea was that while technology has probably made it easier to rebel against authoritarian governments, it has also made it tougher to build enduring, deeply rooted democratic polities to replace them.

The third big idea was a historical one. Wanda Rapaczynski was one of the leading creators of Poland’s vibrant free press. But she identified a critical external force in her explanation of what made the revolutions in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic succeed: Europe and the promise of membership in the European Union.

The fourth lesson of Central Europe for the Arab Spring came from the founder and chief benefactor of Central European University — George Soros. Mr. Soros, who fled Budapest as a teenager and made his fortune in the United States, suggested that the history of his homeland offered an example for the Arab revolutions that was both cruelly realistic and ultimately inspiring.

… Listening to these friends and patrons of Central Europe’s successful revolutions prompted one big question. It was left unspoken — and that is probably appropriate, since it is most properly asked on the banks of the Nile, not the banks of the Danube. It is this: Where is the European Union and where is the George Soros for the Middle East and North Africa?

…where is the George Soros for the Middle East and North Africa?