Middle Eastern dictators may be going down, but so far nothing better has taken their places.
The continuing chaos in the Middle East serves as a timely reminder of just how difficult it is to bring about positive change in areas of the world that are familiar only with brutal dictators.
It was only a few months ago that cockeyed optimists were foolishly referring to the so-called Arab Spring — the notion that unhappy residents of Middle Eastern countries were overthrowing brutal governments and laying the groundwork for democracy and rule of law.
Not hardly. That's not to say that it won't happen someday. But the only country in the Middle East that operates as a democracy, respects the rights of its citizens and operates under the rule of law is Israel.
As for the rest — they have never been there, never done that.
Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled with an iron fist for 40 years, may be just an ugly memory in Libya, but who or what will follow him? No one can say with any certainty.
In Egypt, after restive crowds made President Hosni Mubarak's decades-long reign untenable nine months ago, the Egyptian army forced him out of office and into jail. The army is promising an election, one radical Muslims might well win, even as it vows to hold on to power. Meanwhile, the riots, brutality and killing continue in this impoverished country.
In Syria, President Bashar Assad, who succeeded his dictator father, is fighting to retain power against the same kind of revolts that resulted in Mubarak's and Gadhafi's ousters. The death toll there is well above 3,000, and it will rise.
Disputes like this do not end peacefully. Assad either will kill or defeat his foes or he will be killed or imprisoned or flee the country.
Over there, they don't count the votes and declare happy winners and gracious losers.
Where does that leave the United States?
This country is mostly on the outside looking in. We try to protect our interests, encourage peaceful change and the formation of governments that protect human rights. But our influence is limited because our values are not their values.
A real Arab Spring — meaning a transition from ruthless dictatorships to governments that function with the consent of their peoples — would benefit the entire world. But winter is coming, and it's going to be just as cold and dark as before.