Liberty has come to Libya . . . or so it appears. After four decades of tyranny, the Libyan people have thrown off the shackles of oppression and are free to determine their destiny.

This is good.

But troubling reports foreshadow a future of further tyranny, not freedom.

The Libyan “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage” states in Part 1, Article 1: “Islam is the Religion of the State and the principle source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

If Part 1, Article 1 of the draft constitution is adopted in a post-Muammar Gaddafi constitution then the idea of liberty in Libya will take on a different meaning than liberty does in Western countries. This is not something new under the sun—understanding the nature of liberty in the Middle East has been the challenge from the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Since then, we’ve tested George W. Bush’s doctrine of exporting democracy to Islamic states. Thus far it remains to be seen whether Iraq, or any other Islamic country, can establish and maintain lasting liberty as understood in the West.

We rightly celebrate the 2011 “Arab Spring” that toppled long standing dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but we should tempter our celebration with realism. The Arab Spring may not bring gentle showers of freedom to these North African countries. Rather, it may produce waterless clouds—forming a shadow of liberty without the substance.

Durable liberty is only possible under the rule of God, the rule of law, and the rule of representative government. This is the tradition of Western countries, including the United States—a tradition stemming from the authority of God and His Word, the Bible.

Yet, philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi in a May 20, 2011, interview with the Christian Post asked: “why is it that no Muslim nation in 1,300 years has been able to create and sustain a free society?” The secret of American liberty, he argued, is “in God we trust.” But what about Islamic freedom? “Why did . . . Islam fail to produce liberty?” Mangalwadi wondered in The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Islam believes, as does Judaism and Christianity, in the authority of God and his word. However, Mangalwadi argued in The Book that Made Your World:

A key factor is that Islam denied God the power and love to come to this earth to establish his kingdom. If God does not come to establish his rule, then we have no option but to be ruled exclusively by sinful men. . . . Islam has never been able to foster a reformation that could undermine human totalitarianism, because it rejects the very notion of God coming to establish his kingdom. It also fails to empower the people by its refusal to translate the Qur’an into the languages of the people. [340]

The revolutions of the Arab Spring holds out the promise of liberty. But enduring freedom is never won through revolution alone—through the force of arms alone. Enduring freedom is only won when the force of arms is accompanied by the force of the Spirit—a revolution of the Spirit. Only then can the seeds of liberty take root, flourish, and bear fruit. Without the Spirit of God all that one can hope for is an exchange of one tyranny for another tyranny.

History bears this out.

The Russian Revolution under Vladimir Lenin threw off the chains of the Tzars only to shackle the people behind an iron curtain of the godless Soviet Union. The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong drove out the “corruption” of Western ideas only to corrupt the people with Marxist ideas leading to the slaughter and oppression of millions. And the Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro deposed the dictator Fulgencio Batista only to impose another dictator which nearly ignited a nuclear holocaust and continues to deny freedom to the Cuban people. These Eastern, Asian, and Hispanic revolutions—to say nothing of the revolutionary history of Central and South America—did not replace the heavy yoke of despotism with the light yoke of liberty. Rather, these revolutions replaced one tyrannical yoke for another tyrannical yoke.

Not even the godless French Revolution established longstanding liberty. Influenced by the atheistic writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “social contract,” Maximilien Robespierre led a revolution that devolved into the Reign of Terror. Eventually, the impious mob turned on their leader and sent Robespierre to the guillotine, executing face up so he could see the blade fall. What followed the bloodbath in France was the dictatorial reign of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

That was then. This is now.

What will happen to the newfound freedom in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia remains to be seen. But history is a stubborn guide—and it points to the truth that without the God of the Bible alive in the hearts of men the Arab Spring will prove to be nothing but a waterless cloud. As Robert C. Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1847–1849) said: “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

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2 Responses to Will the Arab Spring Produce a Waterless Cloud?

  1. Tim says:

    The comments on the arab spring and where it may go are very insightful. I fully agree. Unshackling the people from chains of dictatorship doesn’t guarantee anything as other corrupt men usually take the reins. Is anything more intoxicating and desirable then power? As a country, We rush to embrace these new “fledgling democracies” as if by a miracle they will yield a free and democratic society like ours… friendly to us, and friendly to their own people. How often does that actually happen?

    Not to be too Cynical, but Regime change more often then not yields little more then new names on the desk. Why do we push for it, as if Democracy itself will lead to the end of all strife and corruption as an end result of regime change. Even our CIA’s installation of the Shah in Iran, in the 50’s in a “textbook” regime change by CIA standards, did little for the country and yielded today’s powerful clerics there with a secular figurehead like Ahmadinijad. As you mention, Castro, Mao, not to mention pinochet’s Chili , pol pot in Cambodia, Duvalier in Haiti, or the Marcos in the philippines – all seem to yield the same result. They rob the country and send everyone into poverty.

    Still, I find it troubling that in the past, the U.S. has oft rushed to embrace many new leaders before we realize their real intensions. Are we doing that yet again? We must certainly be busy at the state department these days, providing support for the “rebels” who are largely unknown to us, and have little if any history for us to evaluate where they will go. Simultaneously trying to figure out Iraq and Afganistan’s tribal structure. Ghaddafy and Mubarek didn’t leave too many people in their succession plan that we can turn to for expected results.
    It will be an interesting next 5 years to see what becomes of these new countries and whether the ARAB spring will eventually cause change in Syria or even Iran where the new Generation is not so enamored with the Clerics who actually rule. Syria in particular is an example of how a government protects itself from the demand that it change, even from those it rules. I doubt they will listen to anyone – not even Russia who is a key trading partner. I wonder what our foreign policy strategy will become. In the meantime I’m not holding my breath for Peace in the middle east as a result of the Arab Spring – especially after the Israeli embassy was trashed in Egypt.

    • Derrick G. Jeter says:


      Thank you for your very thoughtful comment to my post. I heartedly agree with your assessment. Much remains to be seen what happens in the Middle East. And much remains to be seen what happens with American foreign policy, especially as another presidential election draws ever closer.

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