Have any Western governments officially conceded that becoming involved in the Arab Spring was a mistake?



The Arab Spring has in hindsight been a complete disaster for the region. Syria is in a massive civil war. Libya effectively split apart into several state. Egypt is experiencing constant turmoil. And other countries in the region are likewise ready to blow up at any time.

Did any Western government officially concede that this is the case and apologize for participating in the Arab Spring events? Or does the West still maintain that it was a successful step in the fight towards democratic rule?


Posted 2018-04-02T23:40:19.093

Reputation: 36 466

1Does a specific elected politician saying this count? (Thinking of Donald Trump in particular) – Andrew Grimm – 2018-04-03T03:03:32.050

@AndrewGrimm yes if that politician was in power at the time (rather than retired or campaigning) – JonathanReez – 2018-04-03T03:04:08.547

2Politicians behaving differently when in power compared to when retired or campaigning? That would be absolutely and utterly ... business as usual. – Andrew Grimm – 2018-04-03T03:07:09.380

11The "ready to blow up at any time" part seems also true before the arab spring. – user5751924 – 2018-04-03T06:02:10.570

23The French Revolution from 1789 has also been a complete desaster in hindsight. Still, we celebrate it as one of the birth hours of democracy in even further hindsight. Evaluations keep changing over time. – Thern – 2018-04-03T06:38:31.660

9To qualify the question and add to @user5751924's: the movement started in Tunis and spread to other countries as popular revolts. No intervention in Tunis, Egypt was more of a "lack of intervention" (by not backing their traditional ally Mubarak) than of intervention, and interventions in Libya and Syria started after the revolts there were already going on. So implying that without the intervention there would have been no turmoil is debatable. – SJuan76 – 2018-04-03T08:36:38.427

@Thern, who is "we"? Most of the time I've seen it mentioned it was to show how a revolution can go awry. In other words, it's cited as an example of what not to do when trying to create a fair government system. Its pitfalls are seen as the lessons to be learned. It's goals are not. – grovkin – 2018-04-03T10:09:08.427


@grovkin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_the_Rights_of_Man_and_of_the_Citizen, for example. And the waves of revolutions that used it as inspiration (1830, 1848...).

– SJuan76 – 2018-04-03T10:44:06.120

@Sjuan76, the "Legacy" section (of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" Wikipedia entry) has a note that it has no cited sources. – grovkin – 2018-04-03T10:54:54.377

@grovkin Sorry, my bad. By that used [it] as inspiration I meant that used [the French Revolution] as inspiration. – SJuan76 – 2018-04-03T11:05:07.967

2The way it is written right now, this question is built on several dubious premises. Western politicians would have made a decisive contribution in triggering the Arab Spring ? Most of them were rather surprised by the events. The Arab Spring being cause of subsequent disasters ? Shouldn't we rather blame dictators and the help they received from abroad (Syria, Bahrein), or the lack of support for civil transition governements (Lybia, Egypt), or fundamentalists (ISIS,...) ? While everything is still far from rosy in Tunisia, doesn't it have much better prospects now than under Ben Ali ? ../.. – Evargalo – 2018-04-03T14:06:19.947

2../.. In any case, you could make this question clearer and more on-topic by focusing on one particular policy by one specific government: is there criticism in UK, France and the US about the intervention in Lybia ? Yes there is. About Syria ? Yes there is. About what else ? – Evargalo – 2018-04-03T14:08:30.880

4The question is quite leading and makes several unwarranted assumptions without any proof. – user4012 – 2018-04-03T14:24:44.197

@SJuan76 Kaddafi would arguably have stayed in power if the West didn't get involved. Likewise the Syrian war would've been over by now if the West didn't help any of the rebels in any form. – JonathanReez – 2018-04-03T15:54:48.873

1@JonathanReez But no one can say that a Ghaddafi in power would have made the situation any better. And for Syria, no one knows, but given the fact that there are currently Russian, Iranian, Iraqi, Turkish, and Israeli troops in parts of Syria, as well as armed militia by Saudi-Arabia, Kurdish resistance groups, remainders of the IS, and an uncounted number of smaller islamist and non-islamist militias, I very much doubt that the war would have been over without Western intervention. – Thern – 2018-04-03T16:08:00.340

An argument can be made that the current situation is a result of too little, and too poorly executed, intervention by the West, and too much intervention by other powers such as Russia and Iran. – Acccumulation – 2020-04-01T17:04:27.277



The most important flaw in the premise is that Western invention had a significant impact on the "Arab Spring". This is not the case.

The civil war in Syria was neither started nor mainly influenced by the West. Military actions mostly focused on the Islamic State, and this only after it emerged several years after the beginning of the civil war. Other global players, especially Russia and Iran, had a far more important contribution on the war than Western states.

The split of Libya was also imminent. While in this case a contribution indeed came from the West (effectively the only one, that is), it also happened after the civil war had already begun, and it is very questionable if the removal of Ghaddafi did actually change much. Now Libya is in a state of a disabled government; else it probably would have been more like Syria, with a dictator that lost control over large parts of the country. But the West could never prevent the civil war.

In Egypt, the West practically was absent. Mubarak was ousted, Mursi was elected and ousted, and Al-Sisi returned the country to a military dictatorship as it was before. The turmoil was there before the rebellion, and it is still there, especially because nothing has changed fundamentally. It is difficult to see any Western responsibility here.

This also holds for other countries that are "ready to blow up at any time". Note that the Arab Spring was not the reason for the instability of the countries, but the instability of the countries was the reason for the Arab Spring.

So there is not much to apologize for.


Posted 2018-04-02T23:40:19.093

Reputation: 3 721


To be completely cynical, who says that it was a mistake - for the west? Simply as a matter of geopolitics, it seems better to have your enemies fighting amongst themselves, than to have them united against you.

So if we take Libya, for example, we had an entrenched dictator who used the country's oil wealth to finance various jihadist movements, and used the mechanism of the state to carry out a number of attacks. Now the parts of Libya are too busy fighting amongst themselves to do much in the way of attacking others. Which seems like an improvement if you're one of those others, no?


Posted 2018-04-02T23:40:19.093

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