The media has again begun its celebration. Another repressive dictator has been overthrown (or is about to be). The people are massed in the streets demanding freedom. Talk turns to a successor who will restore order and create a new and better order. We hear these familiar words as the thirty-year-old Mubarak regime totters on the brink.
The hard reality is that this optimistic scenario rarely works out. A worse (or equally bad) dictator rises to the top, not a democracy or even a more benevolent dictator. Throughout history, it is the Lenins, Stalins, Ayatolla Khomeneis, Saddams, and Aristides who replace the Czars, the Shahs, the al-Bakrs, and the Papa Docs. Successful transitions from dictatorship to democracy of the Philipines and South Korea are the exception and require special circumstances.