Egypt is in the throes of its worst political crisis since 2011, when massive street protests resulted in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, in Syria, the civil war worsens daily. Those realities, plus the ongoing problems in many other Arab states, contrast dramatically with the optimism that surrounded the Arab Spring in 2011. Three years ago, the optimism came with the ousting of four dictators in the greatest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. But if the 2011 revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen were largely bloodless victories, they were clouded by the civil war in Libya and fears that building new democratic states could prove more difficult than simply toppling dictators. Are today's revolutions a harbinger of real change, like the one the United States experienced in 1776? Or are they sewing the seeds of a counter-revolution, like the Revolutions of 1848?
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