The Arab Spring may be a historical turning point similar to the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. The latter also began as a seemingly invincible wave demanding democratic reforms but turned into inglorious struggles with uncertain outcomes. They reshaped the map of Europe by replacing multinational empires with the relatively new concept of nationalism as the defining principle of governance. The Arab Spring of 2011 could do the same in the Middle East, where states are still defined according to the imperial principles laid out in World War I secret agreements. If 1848 proves anything, it is that the significance of great revolutionary upheavals emerges long after the barricades have been torn down. The year 1848 was not so much an end as a beginning; it is too early to tell how the Arab Spring will end.

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