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One year after Egypt's revolution, dictators on the defensive

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Good ideas like freedom have a way of propagating themselves and forcing evil to the surface where it can be more easily lanced. But caution is still needed to prevent new democracies from relapsing.

The European revolutions of 1848 were suppressed, and most of the former Soviet states that were liberated after 1991 are still mostly not free. But those are balanced by the waves of democratization in Latin America and Asia starting in the 1970s, and then in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Backsliding is still all too common. Ukraine and Hungary have toughened their hold on the opposition. Turkey is cracking down on the media, and even Israel is moving against some private activists.

Fortunately, the Obama administration has shed its initial aversion to promoting democracy – an overreaction to the Bush-era “freedom agenda.” President Obama now sprinkles the word “democracy” in speeches. And a year ago, he finally came around to helping the Egyptians oust Hosni Mubarak and then allowing NATO to remove Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.

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