...The final thing Iraq teaches us is that while external arbiters may be necessary, they are not sufficient. We’re leaving Iraq at the end of the year. Only Iraqis can sustain their democracy after we depart. The same will be true for all the other Arab peoples hoping to make this transition to self-rule. They need to grow their own arbiters — their own Arab Nelson Mandelas. That is, Shiite, Sunni and tribal leaders who stand up and say to each other what Mandela’s character said about South African whites in the movie “Invictus”: “We have to surprise them with restraint and generosity.”The diff between watchful, hopeful TLF and moi is that I think we do have a choice. We can succumb to his sort of wishful thinking, or we can open our eyes, take the lay of the land, and offer a realistic appraisal of the scene. When you do that, I think it's pretty clear that there are no Arab Mandelas in sight, and the chances of one showing up any time soon is remote bordering on the non-existent. More likely, the Arabs will exchange one "lid" (the lid they just flipped) for another one (the lid of sharia/Islamism).
This is what the new leaders of these Arab rebellions will have to do — surprise themselves and each other with a sustained will for unity, mutual respect and democracy. The more Arab Mandelas who emerge, the more they will be able to manage their own transitions, without army generals or outsiders. Will they emerge? Let’s watch and hope. We have no other choice. The lids are coming off.
Update: Some Arab non-Mandelas fail to blow up an oil pipeline (not for want of trying to, though).