From what I see, the people have long been living under oppression and poverty. What triggers the protests are events that happens in Tunisia, Mubarak trying to place his son as the next President and the power of social media. It started with small groups of people protesting in various cities. When the police and military failed to suppressed these small groups of protestors (they didn't even show up in full force), the people feel that the time has come and showed up in full force. They don't really care who comes next. They just know that under the same leadership, they are hopeless. 2 leaders have fallen. First Ali Ben Ali and now Hosni Mubarak. There are also unrest in Yemen, Algeria, Liberia, Bahrain and Saudi. If the lesson in Tiananmen has taught the leaders of these countries anything, it is to swiftly and brutally suppress the protests before it gets out of hand. That is probably why live ammunitions are being used in these countries in turmoil.
If you have followed the downfall of Mubarak, US and the western powers changed their hands several times. They are also worried about losing Mubarak, as the Egypt leader. Egypt has been very influencial in the regional politics. The western powers first called for a peaceful near future transition, then a quick transition, then applaud the triump of people's power. I think they are caught by surprise at the determination of the people and still want to quickly establish political ties with the various opposition leaders, so do not want to appear to back Mubarak. They need to as Mubarak has lost the trust of his people. I am sure their people are already establishing ties with the next potential leader.
Well, let's take a look at the original People's Power, in 1986. That happened 25years ago in the Philippines. The Marcos regime was toppled and democracy was restored. I am not sure if the lives of the people there is any better than during the times of the dictator.
And then, progressively, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe followed the same path, with democracy installed, free elections and so forth. After like 20years, could we say for sure that things have changed for the better there?
Now, back to Middle East. In my view, this is an explosive place, with a dangerous mix of oil and some fundamentalist Muslim. Hope that it doesn't get out of hand.
Actually, the people power revolution had happened a couple of times before that of the philippines. 2 examples would be the french revolution of 1789 and the iranian revolution of 1979. Unfortunately, the aftermath of both were less than ideal with the reign of terror resulting for the former and religious fundamentalistic rule for the latter.
Hopefully the middle east people will be clear headed enough not to mix religion with politics and hopefully not trade one tyrant for another