For the past year and a half, the Arab Spring has convulsed the Middle East. It has resulted in the overthrow of four leaders who only two years before seemed destined to rule for life, plunged another country into a fratricidal civil war and placed even long-established monarchies under renewed political and economic stress.
What triggered this tsunami of political upheaval? And is it localized to the Arab world, or could it spread? It is no secret that authorities in Beijing and Moscow are playing close attention, attempting to ferret out any indications that a prerevolutionary situation may be building up in their own societies.
Many have cited new social media technology as a key driver of the revolutions. But these devices and the software that powers them are tools. Certainly, they helped to facilitate the uprisings -- allowing people to circumvent traditional filters used to control information and to be able to organize without having to always physical assemble -- but their mere presence was not the cause. For those in the West enamored with the prospect of Facebook revolutions, airdropping iPhones is not a democracy promotion strategy on the cheap.