The Middle East is boiling. Unprecedented popular uprisings have rocked a number of countries, especially the three where I served as U.S. ambassador -- Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain. Demonstrators, taking to the streets to protest their dismal living conditions, refused to be beaten back, swelling until the autocratic presidents in Tunisia and Egypt were driven from power. As of this writing, the family-run government in Bahrain is fighting back, hoping its security forces and hold on power will be strong enough to outlast the protests. The uprisings in the three countries have had many similarities, but there have also been significant differences. All three face rising unemployment as a result of the global recession. They were experiencing growing gaps between rich and poor, stifled free speech, repression of the opposition, widespread corruption, and continuing autocratic control behind a veneer of democratic openings.
Tunisia had not seemed particularly shaky. It
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