Tom Friedman in the NYT today:
Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, countries fractured by tribal, ethnic and religious divisions, would have been ideal for gradual evolution to democracy, but it is probably too late now. The initial instinct of their leaders was to crush demonstrators, and blood has flowed. In these countries, there are now so many pent-up grievances between religious communities and tribes — some of which richly benefited from their dictatorships while others were brutalized by them — that even if the iron fist of authoritarianism is somehow lifted, civil strife could easily trample democratic hopes.
Could anything prevent this? Yes, extraordinary leadership that insists on burying the past, not being buried by it. The Arab world desperately needs its versions of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk — giants from opposing communities who rise above tribal or Sunni-Shiite hatreds to forge a new social compact. The Arab publics have surprised us in a heroic way. Now we need some Arab leaders to surprise us with bravery and vision. That has been so lacking for so long.