Washington -- Two years ago this fall, when the uprising in the relatively middle-class country of Tunisia started the "Arab Spring" that shook the entire region to its foundations, the common wisdom was that there was no turning back from these changes.
What's more, the revolution spread from country to country, seemingly without surcease -- Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria -- until it appeared to be the same conflict breaking out in every country.
Pharaonic pretenders saw Egypt's new leaders -- its president and the majority of its parliament coming from the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- as simply a repetition of Tunisia's experience a year ago, when the Islamist party Ennadha won the presidency and the parliament.
But even while the pro-Western secularists in Tunisia and Egypt were wringing their hands and fearing that radical Islam was the face of the future in the Middle East, the Muslim party was all but through.
Just this week, the Ennadha government actually agreed to resign after negotiations started with secular opponents to form a nonpartisan, caretaker administration and prepare for new, more acceptable elections. In return, Ennadha would get most of what it had wanted in the new constitution created last year.
Coming at roughly the same time, a series of polls and surveys were stunning in their rejection of Islam in Tunisian politics generally and especially of any aspects of radical Islam, such as groups like Ansar al-Sharia that sympathize with al-Qaida.