I think it's probably too early to say that developments in the Arab world represent a "fourth wave" of democratization, but Richard Wolin's Feb. 8 column, which I've just read quickly, is interesting. I'm not sure I'd have gone with the reference to Hegel (at the end of the column).
Wolin wrote before the protests and subsequent brutal crackdown in Bahrain. I knew nothing about Bahrain until a few days ago, and now I know a few facts thanks to the news coverage, including that Bahrain is host to the h.q. of the U.S. 5th Fleet. This prompts one to consider (again) why the U.S. has naval and military bases all over the world, not just in 'crucial' regions like the Mideast but in a great many other places as well. A book I was looking at yesterday, John Kane's Between Virtue and Power: The Persistent Moral Dilemma in U.S. Foreign Policy, contains a sentence to the effect that the decision to establish a global network of U.S. bases stems from the human and other costs of fighting the Japanese in the 'island-hopping' campaign of WW2. This may well be standard wisdom among historians. And yet -- why should the war in the Pacific have convinced policy-makers that they needed a global network of bases to prevent another such war? Why wasn't it enough to occupy Japan and reconstruct it under a new, non-militarist constitution? Perhaps it made sense to add a few permanent bases in the Pacific for insurance, so to speak, but the global U.S. base network as stemming from a purely preventive, defensive motive doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
The global base network and the network of security treaties and status-of-forces agreements that accompany it have never made much sense from the standpoint of a reasonable grand strategy, and they have made less and less sense as the years have gone by. Whether one favors 'offshore balancing' or some other approach, the presence of U.S. military forces all over the world, 65 years after the end of WW2 and 20 years after the end of the Cold War, is wasteful and counterproductive. There may be a case to be made for some overseas bases, but not for the hundreds that presently exist.