- By David Mack <p> David Mack is a Middle East Institute scholar, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. </p> <p> Assertions and opinions in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Middle East Institute. </p>
Given the high degree of euphoria and romanticism in the coverage by both Western and Arab media of recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, it would be useful for everyone to take a few deep breaths and remind ourselves that revolutions often look very attractive in the beginning. Then they usually go through some really bad periods; the French reign of terror and the decade of political turmoil that followed, the crushing oppression of Soviet communism in Russia, and the unfinished misery of Iranians.
I would like to be optimistic, and there are some positive signs in Tunisia and Egypt. Both countries have strong traditions of national pride, histories of constitutionalism, cultural riches, and a middle class of educated men and women. So far, the armed forces in both countries have shown a degree of professionalism and discipline that have earned the respect of both popular forces and key civilian government institutions. Both have had respectable economic growth rates at a time of global economic distress. Regrettably, however, there are also major factors working against a happy outcome in the next several years.