Consider recent headlines and advances in Middle East affairs. In Egypt, the man at the top was replaced, but a new system hasn't fully emerged. The Iranians have managed to curb initial unrest and are suspiciously happy with the upheaval in other countries. The Bahrainis, assisted by the Saudis, have held the opposition in check. Syria is boiling over, but Assad doesn't seem ready to leave. Even Qaddafi's imminent departure isn't certain. With the exception of Tunisia and Egypt—important exceptions, to be sure, especially the latter—the new Middle East might still look, at least on the outside, surprisingly similar to the old Middle East. The regimes, shaken by recent events, will regroup, recover, reform, and survive.
Disappointments will surely surface as the region simmers down and returns to the normality of regime as usual. But we must not despair, because in most cases, small, gradual changes turn out better than sweeping, earth-shattering revolutions.
Change will eventually come to the Middle East, but it will be a process of many years, even decades, not the exciting, made-for-TV transformation we've gotten used to in recent months. Shaw's spirit might seem cynical, and it is steeped in conservative doubt. But after three months of constantly celebrating unstoppable revolutions, maybe it's time for a healthy dose of skepticism to pollute the mood of the moment. Maybe we need a time out, a chance for the coaches and players to assess what they've gained, what they've lost, and what needs to be done before the decisive period begins.