Bahrain and Libya, too, are upping the ante of repression in a way Tunisia and Egypt did not. Will it work?
The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that swept their entrenched dictators from power were remarkably peaceful. Today, hundreds of thousands gathered in Egypt's Tahrir Square mourning their martyrs and insisting their revolution is not complete.
But now, other worried Middle Eastern autocrats appear to be taking a lesson from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, and are bringing the hammer down fast.
That Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi would kill his people to save himself is no surprise. Col. Qaddafi is a bit of an outlier among Middle Eastern autocrats, having sought to build a cult of personality and a totalitarian regime far more closed and violent than most of the rest in the region.
Human Rights Watch reported at least 24 protesters killed by Qaddafi's security forces yesterday, and activists said live rounds were being fired against protesters gathered for a "day of rage" today to bury the dead.
But in tiny Bahrain, where a US-backed Sunni monarchy rules over a populace that's about 70 percent Shiite, massive force has been unleashed on peaceful democracy protesters both today and yesterday as well. The Western-looking kingdom plays host to America's Fifth Fleet, leaving President Barack Obama with even fewer levers of influence in Bahrain than he had in the case of Egypt.
It's one thing to threaten withholding military aid from Egypt, a card the Obama administration probably played during the height of Egypt's uprising. It's quite another to say, "Stop shooting your people, or we'll remove our naval base."