Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya is in the midst of political turmoil; are we seeing a seismic shift throughout the Middle East and North Africa to a more open and transparent political and governing structure or this simply the case of authoritarian regimes being caught off guard only to return to power in the near term?
It is still too early to tell what to expect from these countries in the form of governance, however, I am optimistic that the youth of these countries will not allow their political hopes and dreams to fall in to the hands of the old authoritarian regimes. We already see that playing out in Egypt and Tunisia, where the youth continue to protest in order to speed up the reform agenda and make sure their efforts are not in vain. In Tunisia, the “old guard” Prime Minster just resigned – realizing that the people of Tunisia did not accept him as a legitimate leader. As Libya plays out, it is highly unlikely their citizens will want to return to another authoritarian regime since they were ruled by one for 40 plus years. The youth of the Middle East are truly a bright spot in the future of that region – politically smart, well educated, and tech savvy – all elements which are likely to produce a more transparent and accountable political system.
Why are these uprisings happening now and why these particular countries?
These uprisings are happening now because the people of these countries are truly at their breaking point – economically and politically. These revolutions were sparked in Tunis, Tunisia, by a young man who was so fed up with his repressive government which did not afford him any opportunity. Tunisia successfully overthrew its long time President, and that spread to Yemen, Egypt and now Libya. These countries all have several factors in common: a frustrated youth population which is highly educated but cannot find jobs; a huge divide between economic classes; and an overly repressive government which does not have legitimacy with the people.
Should Libya eventually go the way of Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia, what are the implications for U.S. foreign policy in the region moving forward?
We are at a very critical moment in history, and the U.S. must make sure it has a seat at the table. Right now, the U.S. is perceived as being slow, uncertain, indecisive and even weak in our reaction to events in the region. The Middle East is critical to the national security interests of the United States. I expect more from our Administration in supporting the people’s quest for democracy and freedom in the Middle East. I urge the Obama Administration to do more to support the people and the future of the governance systems in these countries.
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