It is hard to underestimate the importance and impact of the current popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Ben Ali hastily escaped to Saudi Arabia and Mubarak stepped down after 30-years of iron-fisted rule. The military rule now in place is a deep concern; it must end quickly and urgent steps made toward transitioning to a true democratic society in Egypt.
The fall of Egypt's modern-day Pharaoh and the establishment of a true democracy will likely shape that volatile region more than anything since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
These events not only affect the entire Middle East, but will have a tremendous impact on the U.S. foreign policy as well. Decades of brutal dictators oppressing and controlling their people is coming to a forced end, and the United States' long-standing support for these autocracies must end as well.
The change in Egypt, as well as Tunisia, is historic because it is not driven by any specific ideology. It is not driven by nationalist, Islamic, socialist, or political motivations. It is truly a popular movement that is bringing together the poor and the rich, young and old, religious and non-religious, Muslim and Christian, and political and non-political. It is a movement of the masses, of people seeking freedom, rights, honor, dignity, self-determination, economic prosperity, and a recognition of their humanity.
The exit of Mubarak and his repressive policies will likely be a catalyst for many changes. Here are the top 10:
1) A stronger push for democracy, freedoms, and human rights among the people of the Arab world.
2) A self-reassessment and public challenge of the repressive practices of Arab dictators and puppet regimes. The prospect of reform is a wake-up call that it is possible to change the status quo and that the "Arab Street" is not in a coma.
3) An end to the inhumane siege on Gaza and its people.
4) A greater chance for peace when more pressure is exerted on Israel to give the Palestinians more of their rights.
5) A major blow to the U.S.-Israel bloc of client-states and allies, leading to more popular and stable democracies. (Tunisia and Egypt were among its leading members).
6) A shift in the Palestinian Authority's current policy of shamelessly ceding the Palestinian people's moral, legal, and human rights under heavy pressure from Israel's closest Arab ally/protectorate, Egypt (U.S. and Saudi pressure will surely remain).
7) A weakening of religious extremism and terrorism, which is greatly fueled by political repression by dictators such as Mubarak (as well as ongoing occupations in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan).
8) Improved social and economic justice for the people when corrupt and greedy government officials and their cronies lose their ability to embezzle and squander the resources of their countries.
9) An easing of the tension and polarization between the West and large Muslim populations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, which is a result of the U.S. and a few other Western nations imposing, supporting and funding brutal autocracies.
10) On a lighter note, this will also create new job opportunities as our intelligence agencies and State Department will have to go back to the drawing board to remap new U.S. policies and strategies in dealing with new democratic Arab and Muslim-majority countries and peoples.
Like all people, Egyptians have the right to live in freedom, pursue self-determination, and enjoy democracy and respect. The U.S. needs to let go of our addiction to dictators and puppets who do our bidding in the world under the guise of protecting stability or the immoral excuse of serving our national interests at the expense of other people's lives and freedom.
The political map is changing... in Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Palestine, and many other places.
Shortly after he was elected, President Obama promised that he would support political reforms, freedom, democracy, justice, and human rights in the Middle East. Ironically, history has unfolded in the very region where the president gave his 'historic' address a year and a half ago.
But the Obama Administration's mixed messages on the Egyptian situation have left many to wonder whether the U.S. really wants reform in the Middle East. Time is ticking. President Obama must take advantage of a golden opportunity to put his words into action.