Escalating violence in Israeli occupied territory has renewed concern that peace in the Middle East won't come anytime soon, but an expert on Islamist society says despite violence in Gaza, Syria, and Libya, there is plenty room for optimism.
When Americans think about the Muslim world...
"We used to associate it primarily with political violence, terrorism, and war and that sort of thing, what happened...well, we certainly still do, but there was a new ingredient added last year," said Nathan Brown.
The new ingredient, says International Affairs Professor Nathan Brown, is what we learned from the Arab Spring. The George Washington University expert on Islamist societies says many Americans applauded Egyptians and Tunisians when they kicked out Dictators and embraced democracy. In other countries like Libya and Syria, it's more like Arab winter, because democracy has not come easy.
"When the Egyptians and Tunisians overthrew their leading a few years ago, they still had basically functioning political systems. They could remove the person at the top and still have a functioning government while they debated these issues. That's not the case in Libya when Gaddahfi fell, he essentially fell over a state that was essentially a projection of his own personality so Libyans are basically now trying to play politics for the first time. In Syria, again you've got a regime that's just holding on for dear life," Brown said.
"Bashar al-Assaad says he will die in Syria. This is going to be a very difficult situation," said Brown.
The lesson there is that countries are different. But one thing is certain. Democracy, while a great ideal, can be messy.
"We've just been through a Presidential campaign in this country and we see how rhetoric can be divisive and manipulative and demagogues, and that's what's happening in the Arab world right now. They're going from the dream of democracy in a few countries like Egypt and Tunisia to the gritty reality which is that people really disagree and people sometimes play a little dirty in the political game, but it's still essentially a fundamentally sound process," Brown added.
And one that takes time to perfect.