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The Force Of Example

The analogy might be with the chain of non- violent revolutions that drove the sclerotic communist regimes of Eastern Europe from power in 1989. Or then again, it might not. Many people in the Arab world hope that the popular revolt in Tunisia will become a genuine democratic revolution that inspires people in other Arab countries to do the same. Other states, notably most of the existing regimes in the Arab world and their foreign allies, hope fervently that it will not. But the current situation is certainly fraught with possibilities.

It???s not yet clear whether the street demonstrations that drove the Tunisian dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, into exile after 23 years in power will lead to a genuine democracy. The prime minister he left behind, Mohammed Ghannouchi, is promising free elections soon, but it???s still the old regime, minus its leader, that is making the promises. It may not be trustworthy.

This was a spontaneous uprising, an outburst of sheer exasperation with the corruption and incompetence of the Ben Ali regime. The rebels have no plan for what happens next, and thousands of people with guns and good communication facilities have a lot to lose if the old regime just vanishes. It is estimated, for example, that one in 40 adult Tunisians works for the secret police.

But miracles sometimes do happen. The East German communist regime in 1989, after 44 years in power, controlled not only the army but also a well-armed communist militia. Yet, when the Berlin Wall came down, they just decided not to start killing their own people. No matter how



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