The Arab Spring has shown that revolt in one country can rapidly spread to nearby nations who identify with the precursor, and one Arab country after another has witnessed rebellion against decades-old autocracy.
But there is another critical dynamic at play in the collapse of the Arabian ancient regime, and that is the impact of these revolutions on autocracies far away — further even than Iran, which of course has struggled with its own revived domestic uprising.
While the Chinese leadership was perturbed by the Arab uprisings, North Korea’s reaction is particularly instructive: reporting on the Arab Spring there is, naturally, forbidden, but Pyongyang has also refused permission for expatriates in Libya and Egypt to return, lest they bring the revolution home. Moreover, Kim, along with his heir apparent, recently visited his personal bodyguard detail, further suggesting he is not taking the Arab Spring lightly. Economic and diplomatic relations between North Korea and Qaddafi were also strong: North Korea provided its ally with weapons to use against his own people, and now, with Qaddafi gone, Pyongyang has lost another friend and economic partner.
Whether the toppling of Arab rulers is ultimately mirrored elsewhere in the world or not, it is clear that the elimination of any autocracy is not only a portal to freedom in that country, but a blow to dictatorship everywhere and a frightening portent for foreign autocrats.