The Tunisia uprising exposed the faulty assumption of US policy in the Middle East – that stability can be bought at the cost of freedom. Even as the domestic political climate pulls Obama away from foreign involvement, US support for democracy in the Arab world is more important than ever.
In a historic first for the Arab world, Tunisians toppled their longtime dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on Jan. 14 after nearly a month of popular revolt. Drawing inspiration from Tunisia, an unprecedented wave of protests and rioting has spread to Algeria, Libya, Jordan, and Egypt. With rising unemployment, restless youth, and aging, ailing leaders, it looks as if the region is in for a winter, spring, and summer of discontent. The fall of what seemed one of the most stable Arab regimes has the world wondering who might be next.
It is also worth wondering how Western powers, particularly the United States, will react. The faulty assumptions of US policy – that stability can be purchased at the cost of freedom – have been laid bare. With the upsurge in popular, possibly revolutionary anger in the Middle East, this is the time to reconsider failed approaches and advance a bold policy supporting the political changes already well underway.
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