It looks like 2/11/11 will go down in history with 11/9/89, not 6/4/89. 6/4/89 is when the Chinese military obeyed orders to massacre protesters in Tiananmen Square; 11/9/89 is when East German leaders announced the opening of the Berlin Wall and declined to order border guards to shoot the Berliners who began dismantling the barrier that had stood for 28 years.
On 2/11/11, last Friday, as the Egyptian military remained unwilling to fire on the crowds jamming Tahrir Square, Hosni Mubarak resigned after nearly 30 years as president. When people take to the streets in great numbers, authoritarian and dictatorial regimes can only survive if the police or military are willing to shoot.
They didn't shoot in Cairo. Instead, cable news showed them shaking hands with the protesters. Military leaders issued statements saying they would address the grievances of the protesters and suggesting that they would transition to democratic elections.
Most Americans cannot help but rejoice to see a distasteful authoritarian regime toppled. The spectacle of masses of people rejoicing at the prospect of freedom and democracy can't help but be heartening.
But on reflection most of us would probably prefer to have seen a victory of people power in Tehran or Pyongyang than in Cairo. Mubarak's Egypt was an ally of the United States, at least somewhat helpful in our own efforts in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, and a nation at peace, albeit a cold peace, with Israel.
In contrast, the mullah regime in Iran is developing nuclear weapons to threaten Israel and other American allies within missile range. King Jong Il's criminal regime has nuclear weapons and has committed at least two acts of war in recent months against democratic South Korea.
The people of Iran did take to the streets in opposition to the mullahs' election-rigging in June 2009. But Barack Obama and his administration gave a cold shoulder to this green movement, and there was no regime change.
The danger now is that 2/11/11 will have an outcome like that of 2/11/79, the day of the fall of the Shah of Iran. The eventual result of that people power revolution was the victory of the ruthless mullahs and the installation of an anti-democratic, anti-American regime still in power 32 years later.
Shortly after Mubarak's resignation, I happened to be interviewing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about his fascinating memoir "Known and Unknown." He noted that most of the predictions of supposed experts and government officials during the 18 days of demonstrations have proved to be wrong.
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