It is breathtaking how fast the Arab revolution has proceeded, although how far it will go remains unknown, compared with the fall of the evil empire.
It took at least 12 years for the Berlin Wall to fall, if you start with the murders of three East German youths shot at its base in 1977. And when the wall fell, no one knew how far that would go either. It could be argued the revolution against Soviet tyranny started with the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, crushed by Russian tanks.
In six weeks, the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt have been forced to cede power to the masses. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia. Hosni Mubarak has said he will not seek re-election to another term in elections scheduled for September. The initial reaction of more than one million protesters in Cairo’s streets was not welcoming. They made it clear they want him out now. The Obama Administration, which had flip-flopped, defending Mubarak at some points, warned he needed to give way to democracy in an orderly way. Frank Wisner, a representative of Obama, reportedly told Mubarak on Monday night that he must step down.
The big question is what’s next. “Yemen and Syria would be most likely candidates for action, but both seem fairly unlikely. Syria’s Assad’s overtures to his people for reform seem to have a genuine effect with some. Many secular people in Syria want change but genuinely fear Islamist politics more. No change likely with the Gulf,” said Jillian C. York, a North Africa scholar.
Algeria and Jordan have also had protests. Jordan’s King Abdullah II reacted quickly, creating a new government.
So far, there has been no sign that newly democratic countries will support Islamic fanatics. Israel may have lost the wedge it has been for countries that will settle for nothing less than its disappearance.
It will be argued that the Internet-Wikileaks influence on events has been exaggerated; it was present, however. Perhaps later historians can determine how much of a role it did play. Despite news media reports that Egypt had lost all ties to the outside world, communications did continue.
Photo: Al Jazeera