How to explain the Tunisian revolution? By consulting Samuel Huntington—not the Huntington of Clash of Civilizations fame, but the author of The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published in 1991. His model is too complex to be laid out here in all of its subtleties. But the basic message, to borrow from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, is: “It’s the economy, stupid!” We should also add education, urbanization, and globalization—all those items that go into the tale “The Making of a Middle Class.” Tunisia has it all, and that is why it now sticks out like a bloody thumb from the rest of the Arab world, that vast arc from Rabat to Damascus where politics remains frozen, where the birth rate keeps dwarfing economic growth, and where King or Colonel is despotism’s name.
The Tunisian revolt fits Huntington’s model to a T.