When Is It Right (or Wrong) to Rebel?

When protesters confronted the autocrats of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria early in 2011, many liberally minded people around the world hailed this Arab Spring as a moment of great hope, comparable to the velvet revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe. But the picture soon got complicated. Whereas the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes capitulated relatively peacefully, only the Tunisians secured democracy, as the Egyptian revolution was subsequently overturned. Libya and Syria both descended into civil war. In Libya, the outcome has so far been an unstable political vacuum. In Syria, the death toll may exceed 500,000. Millions have been displaced, in refugee flows that have fueled challenges to liberal democracy in Europe. Now, the Syrian revolution faces outright defeat. These facts—a success rate of only one in four and all the resulting deaths —present a troubling conundrum. Do we still believe that oppressed people have the right to resist? Or should we question whether a decision to rebel can really … Continue reading When Is It Right (or Wrong) to Rebel?