Despite formally handing over power on April 12, however, the junta continued to arrest opponents and still wields considerable influence. Scattered fighting between rival armed forces erupted in the capital last week.
The best hope for Syria is that continued protests, strikes and other forms of nonviolent resistance will cause enough disruption that powerful economic interests would force the government to negotiate with the opposition for a transfer of power to a democratic majority.
There are still reasons to be hopeful that the so-called "Arab Spring" will transform the Middle East for the better. It took nearly a decade between the first strikes in the Gdansk Shipyard and the fall of communism in Poland.
The downfall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime is very good news, particularly for the people of Libya. However, it is critically important that the world not learn the wrong lessons from the dictator's overthrow.
Democracy will not come to the Middle East through foreign intervention, sanctimonious statements, voluntary reforms by autocrats, or armed struggle by a self-selected vanguard. It will only come through the power of people.
As with other civil struggles, a nonviolent movement can ebb and flow. There may have to be tactical retreats, times for resetting of strategy, or a focus on negotiations, before broader operations that capture the world's attention resume.
As long as the U.S. remains the world's No. 1 supplier of security assistance to repressive governments in the Middle East and elsewhere, the need for massive nonviolent action in support for freedom and democracy may be no greater than Egypt.
Obama's apparent shift away from the Mubarak regime -- like the similar reversal in US policy toward the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia a couple weeks ago -- serves as an important reminder as to where power actually comes from.