In the wake of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, the United States has an opportunity to assist countries transition into stable democracies and to pressure allies in the Arab world to implement reforms before it is too late.
The continuing unrest in Egypt will have longstanding consequences both in the region and for U.S. foreign policy initiatives, including the war on terror and Arab-Israeli peace.
The demonstrators in Egypt have not been placated by President Mubarak’s recent announcement that he will not stand for reelection. If Mubarak remains in power, the protests are likely to continue.
As the popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continues and the pro-western government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is replaced by a government supported by Hezbollah, the United States is losing key allies in the region.
In the wake of the protests, the United States has an opportunity to publicly promote the emergence of governments in the region that respect democracy and human rights and to aid Tunisia and Egypt in making successful democratic transitions.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist movement that uses anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric, its primary agenda is to make Egypt better through domestic reform.
The time for top-down political reform has come and gone in Egypt. In its place the world is seeing bottom-up change, with all its inherent risks.
The United States has an opportunity to clearly signal its strong support for democracy and engage with the Egyptian government, opposition, and civil society to play whatever role it can in supporting bottom-up democratic change.
The United States has not persistently pressed the Egyptian government to enact democratic reforms and it is too late to call on Mubarak to implement reforms now.
Protests in Tunisia that pushed President Ben Ali to flee the country have sparked mass protests in the region, spreading to Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. The protests in Egypt are growing and unlike anything seen in decades. Will Tunisia remain an isolated case or the beginning of a wave of change?