Middle East experts have been predicting that terrorists or Islamic fundamentalists will take over countries where Arab dictators are being overthrown. That ignores the forces overturning Middle East despots in the first place.
Facebook, YouTube, and cable television have transformed the landscape, informing people of what the rest of the world is like and enabling protest movements and popular uprisings.
In Tunisia, social media transformed a protest by a man who lit himself on fire into a revolution. In Egypt, social media allowed protesters to organize and schedule mass demonstrations.
To suggest that countries like Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya could suffer the same fate as Iran after the shah was deposed in 1979 is like suggesting that America will give up electric power and return to using wood stoves and gas street lamps.
Liberal critics laughed at President George W. Bush for advocating democracy in Middle East countries. But Bush demonstrated in Iraq that a country with no history of democracy could in fact elect its leaders peacefully.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden remembers a conversation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2008 that illustrates what the United States faced.
“There’s no question that Bush had impact on him, because in my last trip to Egypt, Omar Suleiman, his intelligence chief who is now vice president, asked me to stay an extra day to see Mubarak,” Hayden tells me. “We met with Mubarak on a Saturday morning at the Presidential Palace. It was me and several folks from the agency.”
The meeting continued for 90 minutes. As it turned out, the subject was Bush’s constant references, as part of his so-called Freedom Agenda, to the need to free Arab countries of despots. Mubarak was not happy with what Bush was pushing.
At the meeting with Mubarak, the Egyptian president emphatically criticized Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for espousing that agenda.
“It was Mubarak, not meanly, but clearly with some force, giving me the what-for for what Condi Rice and President Bush were doing and saying with regard to democracy in Egypt,” Hayden recalls.
Very often, simply raising an issue or challenging the status quo, as Bush did, can be enough to start a revolution. The power of cable TV and social media did the rest.
Contrary to what experts and commentators are saying, the Middle East will never be the same.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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