The Arab Spring's not working out so well, is it?

Now, six months on from the initial uprisings of the Arab Spring (which, understandably enough, no one expected), we seem to have got all our predictions wrong yet again. But why should we have thought the Arab world might introduce democracy? Against every expectation, out of all the nations in revolt, from Tunisia to Yemen, no leaders, not even a petty Nasser, have arisen, anywhere. The only potential one to emerge, General Abdel Fattah Younes, was killed last month, in an own goal…

In Egypt, rage has returned to Tahrir Square. In a state of lawlessness unknown under the despotism of Mubarak, Christian churches have been burned down, and Copts murdered on the streets. But, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the anger is mainly about economics. Tourism, one of the leading industries, is wrecked.

Egypt is the most populous and influential nation in the Arab world, but it also has the greatest endemic problems of poverty. The economy, one suspects, is still controlled by the same old effendi sipping their coffee in the Mohamed Ali Club. When the Arab Spring began, there was big talk about creation of a Middle Eastern “Marshall Plan”. It would have been visionary, and tremendous; the sheikhs of Riyadh alone could have financed it from this year’s oil profits. But rhetoric aside, when did an Arab nation last do something for another? Despite all the fulsome talk about “our Arab brethren”, 10 minutes in the Middle East will tell you that they loathe each other with a passion only marginally less than that reserved for Israel. Indeed, while its ugly head never arose on Tahrir Square, anti-Israeli sentiment still festers – perhaps particularly among the young.