It appears that I am the pessimist. With the change of government in Tunisia and the potential change in Egypt, I expect that the same type of rule will replace them. President Obama and many others disagree.
The optimistic view is that democracy will take root and help begin to free these people from the autocratic pattern that they have been forced to live under. I am certain that we all hope so. The problem is that democracy is not so easily established.
Democracy tends to evolve. Once established, democracies may be difficult to kill, but they are also very difficult to establish. It takes a great deal of stability and consistent growth over a long time to establish the environment that will support a democracy. Israel is one of the few exceptions. I suspect that this is because so many who built the country initially were immigrants and had brought their views of government with them from other lands. (One reason why Israel is hated so badly) Tunisia and Egypt do not fall into this category. (Not many, if any others do)
Tunisia and Egypt are predominately Arab and Muslim. This combination is not a very encouraging one. Islam originated from this combination. Considering how the culture of Islamic government is so authoritarian, it is difficult for me to believe that the long term ‘change’ that will result from these events will be an enlightened and freedom loving population. The concepts of freedom that we take for granted are actually looked upon as being weak and hostile to Islamic principals. On top of this, we have the concept of Islam being such a one-way street.
Islamic governance is NOT a democracy. Yet this same type of government can easily become established through free elections. If the population votes for it, as HAMAS has recently demonstrated, the election cycle is broken simply because Islamic rule does not allow for open elections. Similar with what happened in Russia, the election of an open government could easily result in the population being repulsed by many of the ‘insulting’ aspects of an open economic and governmental system. Self-criticism is a necessary quality. Many within the Islamic world find self-criticism repulsive and hate it. I find it much more likely that a government like HAMAS or one that is in Iran would become established in Tunisia or Egypt rather than a open, democratic country like Israel, Germany, Japan or the United States.