What Really Matters

One doesn’t generally associate Tunisia with world-historical events, but Tunisians may well have lit the spark that many have expected for decades, and that will bring down authoritarian governments across the Arab world. For many years, Western policy toward Arab countries has tried to straddle an uneasy conflict between maintaining stability and favoring, in principle at least, more open and democratic societies. The most active effort to help bring about the transition from autocratic rule to democracy was, of course, the Iraq war, which resulted in its proponents being denounced by liberals everywhere as “neocons.”
Pretty much everyone knew that the clock was ticking on Arab and Middle Eastern dictators, but the end, when it comes, is always a surprise: we may well be embarking on the Middle East’s Ceaucescu moment. This footage from Egypt was uploaded to YouTube today:

The big anti-Mubarak demonstrations are scheduled for tomorrow. My guess is that Arab dictatorships, like autocracies elsewhere, will prove surprisingly brittle once they are challenged. What the current unrest will lead to is anyone’s guess, but there is no reason to think that more popular input will lead to friendlier regimes. Instead, we may see more Irans and Gazas. Be that as it may, there is a certain relief in seeing the dam finally break and the ossified, archaic, anti-free enterprise ruling elites of the Arab world come tumbling down.