What happens if you make legal protest impossible? In some countries—e.g., Russia and China—you wind up with one-party rule. Those countries have secret police forces efficient enough to squelch most dissent and rulers canny enough to manufacture their own popularity. Dissidents, by contrast, have little if any outside backing.

That’s not what is happening in Bahrain, a tiny American ally (population 1.4 million) on the Persian Gulf (or as Arabs like to call it, the Arabian Gulf) where a Sunni ruling family is attempting to keep control of a restive, mostly Shiite populace.

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