When the revolt in Tunisia occurred back in January, I wrote:
Although most Arab governments are authoritarian, they are also all independent and depend on a slightly different mix of political institutions and measures to keep the rulers in power. The fact that Ben Ali ultimately mismanaged a challenge and was driven from power does not mean that other Arab leaders won't be able to deflect, deter, or suppress challenges to their rule."and
Tunisia is an obvious warning sign to other Arab dictatorships, and they are bound to be especially vigilant in the months ahead, lest some sort of similar revolutionary wave begin to emerge."While conceding that a revolutionary cascade was possible, and that pressure for greater openness might succeed in the long-term, that is I concluded that a rapid transformation was unlikely.
As I've noted previously, I underestimated the degree to which events in Tunisia would inspire like-minded movements in other countries, and it's clear that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak didn't respond as swiftly or effectively as I expected. But Arab governments are under no illusions now, and we seem to witnessing precisely the sort of counter-revolutionary responses that often serve to contain a revolutionary outbreak.