The burning question is, where next? After Ben Ali and Mubarak, others may not fall so easily – but most regimes are candidates
A GREAT COMMENT
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 February 2011
"The world has yet to settle on an agreed term for the great events unfolding across the Middle East. I was in the depths of the French countryside – out of touch, and with a BBC World Service that could only fade in and out of hearing late at night and early morning – during their latest, awe-inspiring Egypt phase. But I was soon persuaded that the designation which, in an article in Le Monde, Gilles Kepel, the noted expert on Islamic fundamentalism, assigned them would prove as accurately encapsulating as any. He dubbed them the "Arab democratic revolution".
It is definitely, all-encompassingly Arab. The moment one Arab country, Tunisia, lit the spark, it ignited a fire, a contagion, which all Arabs instantly hoped – and its initially mysterious begetters seem to have envisaged or even planned – would spread to the whole "Arab nation". They all recognised themselves in the aspirations of the Tunisian people, and most appeared to be seized with the belief that if one Arab people could achieve what all had long craved, so could the others.
It is self-evidently democratic. To be sure, other factors, above all the socio-economic, greatly fuelled it, but the concentration on this single aspect of it, the virtual absence of other factional or ideological slogans has been striking. Indeed, so striking that, some now say, this emergence of democracy as an ideal and politically mobilising force amounts to nothing less than a "third way" in modern Arab history. The first was nationalism, nourished by the experience of European colonial rule and all its works, from the initial great carve-up of the "Arab nation" to the creation of Israel, and the west's subsequent, continued will to dominate and shape the region. The second, which only achieved real power in non-Arab Iran, was "political Islam", nourished by the failure of nationalism.
And it is doubly revolutionary. First, in the very conduct of the revolution itself, and the sheer novelty and creativity of the educated and widely apolitical youth who, with the internet as their tool, kindled it. Second, and more conventionally, in the depth, scale and suddenness of the transformation in a vast existing order that it seems manifestly bound to wreak......"