Perspectives on Politics

Reflections Symposium

Response to Howard and Walters

Marc Lynch


Political scientists did fail to predict the precise timing and nature of the outbreak of the Arab uprisings. They, however, did not miss the realities of rising social discontent, institutional degradation, economic struggles, and political stalemates. The literature generally concluded that authoritarian Arab regimes had proven their ability to survive such challenges, and retained sufficient capabilities and strategies to overcome their potential challengers. The survival of most Arab regimes in the face of protests and the resurgence of the old regime in Egypt suggest the continuing relevance of attention to the power of these authoritarian structures. There are a wide range of vital new research questions currently being explored, such as the intensity and rapid diffusion of protest across borders, the variation in the political choices by militaries, the distinctive resilience of monarchies, and the post-uprising struggles to consolidate new institutional orders. Overall, however, the response of Middle East specialists in political science should be viewed as a success story rather than a failure.

Marc Lynch is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University (